December 30, 2009

Lazy Girl Split Pea Soup

We've had lots of lovely meals lately - Christmas Eve tamales and a huge Christmas ham. Since then, we've been eating pretty simple food. Yesterday, my girls and I had a lazy day at home and I made homemade split pea soup in the crock pot. I don't use my crock pot much because it has a tendency to make sort of soggy food which I don't really like - but it's perfect for soup that needs to cook a while - especially when I'm too lazy to watch it!

I pre-soak split peas because it helps to make them (all legumes, really) more digestible. Plus, it reduces cooking time! Soaking is a very simple process. Simply cover the legumes with filtered water by a few inches and add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Leave them on the counter overnight and rinse a few times before using the next day. I try to prepare two batches of beans at once so I am prepared for a few meals. Try being the operative word.

Split Pea Soup
**As a former teacher of mine used to say - "Read All the directions before starting!"
1 ham bone, optional (I got mine from my mother-in-law's Christmas ham - and it still had meat on it)
2 cups soaked split peas
1 whole onion
5 or 6 medium carrots
3 o 4 stocks of celery
2 bay leaves (optional)
Sea Salt to taste (not till the end or your beans will be tough!)
4 cups filtered water*
*If you don't use a ham bone, you might want to use chicken stock instead of water. 

1. Mince the onion, carrots and celery and throw them in the crock pot. Traditionally I would sweat the veggies in a pan with some butter or bacon fat first (YES, I said bacon fat!) but this is a LAZY recipe so I just threw it in the pot. Incidentally, these three ingredients are pretty much the basis for most great soups.

2. Add the ham bone and split peas

3. Cover the whole thing with filtered water by a few inches. I didn't actually measure it but it should be at least twice as much as the amount of peas you add. So, 2 cups peas = minimum 4 cups water.

4. Turn the crock pot on high and cook for 5 or 6 hours. If you have more time, you can place it on low for longer. But, like I said, it was a lazy day so I didn't start my recipe till about 2 pm.

5. AFTER the split peas are cooked (they'll be soft and squishy), carefully scoop the veggies and peas out of  the pot and puree it a bit at a time in the blender.

6. After all the flavors are thoroughly blended, add salt to taste - a little at a time. Don't be stingy. Soup tastes bad a lot of times because it's not salted enough. We only use Sea Salt at our house - not that iodized stuff, despite the fact that my father was one of the first Morton Salt sales people in AZ. "When it rains, it pours!"

7. Be sure to take the rest of the meat off the ham bone!

Serve as is or with a little sour cream or plain yogurt on top.We also ate hot biscuits with our soup.

As a testament to how lazy I was yesterday, I rinsed the adzuki beans I soaked the night before and threw them in the leftover water from the peas. The water was already flavored by the carrots, celery and onion. We'll eat that tonight. Like I said, LAZY...

The picture at the top of the page is what my girls and I enjoyed together because I wasn't standing in the kitchen cooking!

December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays - Really.

Lots and lots and lots of gingerbread!

This time of year, motherly duties get amped to a different level. There is a house to clean, laundry to wash, kids to manage, extra shopping to do, holiday cards to send, parties to attend (or throw), rehearsals and concerts to perform in or attend... That list could go on indefinitely. A lot of us cram activity into every corner of our calendar and drag our families along for the ride.

Instead of enjoying the events that should create positive memories for us, we can end up racing from one thing to the next - just hoping we'll finish on time. I get grumpy, overwhelmed and stressed out by my normal list of things to do, never mind a holiday list! Usually, I find myself saying a lot of, "Wait a minute," "Let me just finish this first," or "Shhh...Just be quiet for a minute so I can think!" By the time the holiday arrives, the preparation leaves me feeling exhausted and anticlimactic.

This year, we made a resolution at our house. Instead of spending our holidays racing around or acquiring new stuff (after all, we just got RID of a bunch of stuff), we decided to buy fewer presents - like two small gifts per child - and focus more on making little memories with our kids, enjoying each moment as it comes! We baked cookies, drove around looking for Christmas lights and picked out and decorated the tree - together. So, we broke more than one treasured ornament because my three year old is really fast and grabbed them before I could stop her. I wouldn't trade one moment to get those ornaments back.   I don't want to miss out on the fun the holidays are supposed to be because I was too busy planning for them to enjoy my kids, friends and family. Today is the day to start enjoying every minute of life!

Happy Holidays, friends. May you stop and breathe - and be grateful for the love surrounding you!

December 18, 2009

Vampire baby

It seems like the troublesome threes have been less troublesome lately. Maybe I'm just getting a little more used to heading off or dealing with the challenging moments. When my little thespian decides to show me her dramatic acting chops, I often slow her down with a few words or just take the time to hold her. When I get frustrated, I talk to other mamas who believe in peace parenting - like Stacy over at Mama-Om. Her post about finding "The Good Place" has been a real encouragement.

Then, something happened this week that reminded me my daughter is definitely still three. My husband picked her up from a class while I was at work. When I arrived home, I discovered a band-aid on her shoulder, covering a full mouthed bite. Apparently a hard core Twilight fan attended preschool with her that morning. Some creative questioning revealed that the boy who bit my daughter had tried to play with her but she hadn't - um - consented. He hadn't bitten her first, he'd bitten her BACK. Ugh. This is a first!

We spent a little time talking about it and my daughter said she'd felt hurt when the little boy bit her. But when I asked if she was sorry and ready to apologize, her little chin hit the ceiling and she regarded me coolly from the corner of her eyes "No, I am NOT."  We don't force false apologies because we prefer they come from a sincere place, so I decided to address it when she'd had a chance to cool down a bit.

Later in the week, we visited a friend's house where my daughter's five year old cousin and several other kids (all boys) were playing in the yard when we arrived. She ran out happily to join them. After a few minutes, I noticed all the boys were playing in another part of the yard, but I couldn't see her. I went out to check on her and found her standing alone, looking forlorn. Apparently an older boy had told her she wasn't welcome. She was crushed. We resolved the conflict and another little boy took her under his care and they played happily till we went home.

The next morning, before she returned to her class, I asked her about this incident with her cousin and friends and how being left out had made her feel. "Sad" she answered. Then I asked how she thought the little boy who'd bitten her had felt when she would let him play with her. Looking chagrined, she said, "Sad, hurt."

Encouraged by the progress we were making, I asked, "So, now that you understand how much it hurts to be left out (and bitten), are you ready to tell that little boy you're sorry?" Once again, she employed the sly, corner of the eyes glance and said with a sweet smile, "Oh mom. I don't think he'll come to class today."

"Um, O-k." Maybe that didn't go as well as I thought.

p.s. I did notify her Royal Highness, Princess Three Year Old that in future, she may bite FOOD but that any further people biting would result in her staying home from her beloved class for at least a day. That, at least, moved her enough not to bite anyone in the near future.

Being in the moment

Last night, on the way to pick up my husband from work, I witnessed a terrible car accident. About five car lengths in front of me (with no other cars between us), a car traveling southbound (as we were) - clipped the front left bumper of an oncoming vehicle. The cars impacted so hard, the southbound car bounced up on two wheels just like the picture above - only it seemed like the bottom two wheels left the ground too. I was afraid the car would land on its roof but somehow it righted and bounced - hard - a few times before swinging into a neighboring yard and coming to a stop. By the time I reached the car, I was already on the phone with 911. We prayed for the drivers after we got off the phone. The two in the oncoming car got out and ran to the other driver, who appeared to be unconscious.

My first thought afterward was immense relief. My kids were in the car with me and I was so grateful that we weren't involved in the accident. The second thought was - how important it is to be in the moment when driving. I don't know what caused this accident. Did something medical or mechanical occur to cause him to lose control of his vehicle? Whatever the cause, I drove away a little more thoughtfully.

So, I wanted to send a reminder out to all my friends today. This time of year, there is so much going on, it's easy to be distracted while driving. For me it's little people talking (or whining), phones ringing, my list of things to do, running late and feeling tempted to speed. Yet, all those things are not nearly as important as the precious people in my car and the cars around me!

Be in the moment this week and have a safe holiday driving season!

December 16, 2009

Picture Perfect

A few weeks ago, we scheduled an afternoon session with a photographer. I picked coordinating outfits and planned our day carefully so there would be enough time for the baby to nap and for me to get everyone ready. Everything seemed to be going pretty well until…

While I was fixing my hair (and then hers), my princess obsessed three year old kept saying, “Mom, I have a new rule. No jeans.” Just the day before, she’d worn the jeans I’d chosen for the pictures so I sort of blew off her comment, thinking she’d get over it when she remembered how cute the outfit was. How overly optimistic of me!

When we walked into her room to put on the jeans, my daughter, still determined and fairly cheerful, reiterated her “new rule”. Fairly cheerful myself but wanting to be on time, I tried to encourage her gently to get dressed in the outfit I'd picked. She demurred. I tried a little harder. She refused – a little louder. My perfect schedule started to fall apart. Finally, I’m ashamed to admit it, I resorted to wrestling her into her jeans as she had a complete meltdown and resisted with an impressive singleness of purpose.

As we had our encounter, I had a total flashback to childhood. Every time we took pictures as a family, I wanted to fix my own hair (and believe me, I was NO good at it). My mother, paying good money for these pics, re-fixed it every time and I hated how it looked. I can see the telltale signs of a sobbing session in my little face when I see those family pictures. Most of all, I still remember how I felt not to be able to make that small decision about my appearance. My heart crept into my throat as I realized that, though well intended, my actions made my daughter feel the same way.

I swallowed my pride and apologized, holding her for a few minutes while she recovered her calm. Then I asked her why she didn’t want to wear jeans.

“Mom, I can’t wear jeans for the pictures because I don’t feel good in them!” (It’s true, she’s a dress girl and NEVER wears pants. What was I thinking?)

“Ok, how about this idea? You wear your black shirt, black tights and your pink tutu. Would that be ok?”

The response was a sob of relief and a brilliant smile. “That will be perfect, mommy!”

It took me a while to recover from hurting her feelings this way but it was an important lesson for me. I was trying to create something that doesn’t fit our lifestyle. We’re not a color-coordinated, matching outfits, portrait posing kind of family.

More importantly, we are raising our daughters to listen to their inner voice and learn to think critically to make their own decisions. For a three year old, this would apply to clothing choices. No wonder my daughter was surprised I didn't listen to her when she tried to communicate her wishes cheerfully and creatively the first 20 times. In the future, I'll remember that helping our girls to have that sense of choice means sometimes I have to find a way to accommodate both our opinions or ideas.

 By the way, the pictures actually were perfect!

December 8, 2009

The Undomestic Diva - Unstuffed!

A few weeks ago, after spending days feeling directionless and overwhelmed by all the STUFF in my house, I had an epiphany. We have too much stuff! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hoarder. After all, we have a townhouse with little to no storage so we’ve always tried to live pretty slim.

After spending a few discouraging days tripping over toys, trying to reorganize the small kitchen space and doing innumerable loads of laundry I knew we needed to make a change. After a particularly hard day in which I couldn’t seem to keep anything off the floor for more than five minutes, I practically jumped my husband when he came in the door, “That’s it! I’m done with all this JUNK in our house! We need to get rid of it!!!” He looked at me, laughed and said, “I completely agree, Babe. When do you want to start?” What a guy!

We spent the next few weeks going through closets, drawers, counters and toy boxes weeding out “stuff”. Our criteria? “If we aren’t using it and someone else can, it’s gone.” We compiled 4 large storage bins of clothes, toys, "fall decor", unused gift bags etc, held a carport sale and donated any remaining items to a local charity.

The result of this process was another revelation. While before, we were careful about how we spent our money because our resources are limited, now we are careful because we want only what we really need to live. We don’t want to clutter our space and our time with stuff that will require more picking up, cleaning, organizing, etc.

We want our girls to learn two important lessons from our stuff-purging experience. First, living simply is a great way to be good stewards of the world around us. It causes us to consider carefully what items we choose to admit back into our space, which might even include environmental or labor considerations (like no "made in china" stuff). Second, the most important things in life aren’t - things - but the people we are blessed to know. Our new goal is to spend our time enjoying each other and exploring the world together as a family.

The getting rid of “stuff” thing is kind of addictive. I have a feeling that our original clearing house is just a precursor to the next one. In fact, I think I’ll go start a “give away” bag right now!

December 3, 2009

Yes. This is really my dining room table (well, it WAS my dining room table!).

Today I spoke with two different friends dealing with a similar problem. One friend is full time mom to two kids under 5, the owner of a budding art venture and a part time student. The other friend is full time mom to two kiddos under 3, serves actively in her community and plays a big role in her husband's career by skillfully playing hostess and diplomat. Each feels overwhelmed by housework, a busy schedule and a baby who won't stop crying - nevermind the older kid who needs attention.

Boy, do I relate to how they feel! This week, I woke to a house that seemed to have been hit by a tornado - in every room. What happened? Two days ago, it looked great. I attacked the piles as quickly as I could but was stopped short by - a baby who wouldn't stop crying unless I held her. She's teething and in pain. I lay down with her to help her nap and just as I put her in the playpen to sleep, my three year old woke her - completely - for the second day in a row! Grrrrrr... I'm not sure I should describe the emotion I felt at that moment. My verbal response to her was not admirable.

It's real life to have an unending list of things to do when you're a mom. Most of us expect it and tackle it with gusto. But, even the most patient of mothers feels her edges unraveling if her baby wails, or whines, or screams all day. That last sentence is merely theoretical of course, because I am NOT the most patient of mothers. So, I can't actually speak to that definitively.

But what's the answer for normal moms like my friends and me? Let the baby cry and continue to work or pick her up to give her the message I trust her internal sense of what she needs? While I chose number two today, the third option is the one my friend chose when the crying threatened to send her over the edge. Put the baby in the crib and take a few moments to calm down. A wise choice made by a wise woman.

Breaks, no matter how small, give us not only the strength we need to finish the task, they also allow us to connect with that inner wisdom so necessary to our being the mothers, wives, friends, sisters - WOMEN - we need and want to be. They also allow us to come back ready and able to deal with the grumpy baby and the never-ending list.

This is, of course, the promised reminder...especially as the holidays approach - to Take a Break. Don’t wait for the schedule to ease – it won’t. Be the best version of you today for yourself and for your family. Take the time to be quiet, be alone (or with friends), to laugh, to write, to scrapbook, to do whatever you enjoy that will refresh you and make life worth living now, TODAY. I promise to take one too.

December 1, 2009

Now THIS is a haul!

This is just part of what we bought in a recent trip to the local farmer’s market. UPDATE: Check out Phoenix Farmers' Markets here and here. We also got lots more veggies and a GIGANTIC green heirloom pumpkin that wouldn't even fit in the picture. 

In this economy, nearly everyone is looking for ways to cut corners and save money. But, one of those cost cutting methods is driving me crazy. People I know keep posting Facebook status updates like, “I bought a week’s worth of groceries for a family of 6 for $65!” Zoom to - a picture of groceries stacked all over somebody’s kitchen counter. 

Contents: a bag of cat litter, multiple boxes of sugar cereal, canned spaghetti, pop tarts, white bread, mac and cheese, various other simple carbohydrate foods with little to no nutritional value. 

Basically, all the food on this list has to be supplemented with synthetic vitamins to provide any nutritional value!

Before you get offended because you posted this picture…the one I’m speaking of isn’t yours. I am worried if you were the one who commented “Teach me your ways, oh great shopper!” 

I guess I’ve been so long in the realm of crazy hippie organic mama (my sister’s title for me) - I forget scoring this kind of stuff is considered a success. Our family uses my mom’s old-fashioned advice - "Buy food from the outside aisles of the grocery store - meat, veggies, dairy, grains, not processed (read: boxed, canned) foods". We make our food from, well, whole fresh FOOD! 

While we follow my mom’s advice in theory, we go about it a little differently. 
1. We buy organic produce (cheaper & fresher at the Farmer's Market than big box stores) 
2. We buy local whenever possible either from the Farmer’s Market or friends.    
*Bonus 1 - we're supporting the local economy 
*Bonus 2 – local = less petrol used to transport = environmentally friendly
*Bonus 3 – Nutrient variety because we eat whatever’s in season  
*Bonus 4 - Our kids will know that milk comes from animals on the farm (not a plastic jug) 

3. We only buy meat when we can afford to buy organic, grass fed - usually from a local farm.
*Bonus 1  – Savings! Legumes & eggs are an awesome & cheap source of protein!
*Bonus 2 – Green choice. Factory farmed meat is a big environmental offender.
*Bonus 3 – the meat we do buy tastes incredible! 

4. We eat like hard core foodies - trying new recipes from with our fresh ingredients using great online food blogs (

        A deal is only a deal if the value exceeds the cost. The food I buy must be nutrient dense and have a low environmental impact to make it worth my hard earned dollars. There are a variety of reasons I could list for choosing organic food. Mostly, we think a diet that excludes as many poisonous chemicals as possible from our food and from the water and dirt used to grow it is a serious investment in our family’s future – both in terms of our family’s immediate health and in the health of the world we leave to our children. I would rather spend more money on good food now than pay for bad health in the form of insurance premiums and co-pays later. We eat well to be well.

        So, the picture above is MY idea of a good haul. The rest of our shopping trip would include lentils, dairy and whole grains (we make our own bread - using a bread machine - I do NOT have time knead bread myself though I have amazing friends who do it!). The best part is, we get to hang out as a family on Saturday mornings when we visit the farmer's market!
        Ok, rant over. Have a lovely day and go eat some REAL food!

        November 28, 2009

        Making peace with grief...

        I've been feeling really antisocial lately. It isn't that I don't want to be around people, it's that I've felt slow, weighed down. It seems like I have this little cloud over my head, like the one in the comic books. So, every time I sit down to write, even if I have something I want to write about, I haven't had the energy to do it. At first, I thought maybe it was some mild seasonal depression but I realize it's something else.

        Today would have been my mother's 59th birthday. She died three years ago last month of colon cancer. The cancer was advanced when the doctors discovered it and we knew from the beginning it was terminal. Mom was diagnosed in the fall of one year and died the following fall. The week she was diagnosed, I discovered that I was pregnant with my first daughter. Talk about life's joys and sorrows being intertwined. Thank goodness for some light in a dark time!

        While I was so glad to know we were expecting a little bundle of sweetness, the joy was muted by the knowledge my mom might not get to meet meet her and definitely wouldn't be around to be a grandma. I spend my time trying to focus on the happy moments I had left with my mom. But, the helpless feeling of watching her live her last days in so much pain was excruciating, not to mention the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not a bad day was "really it". It was an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least.

        I realized that the darkness I've been experiencing is that muted feeling I had when I knew I was going to have to say goodbye to my mom. Every time the air turns crisp and cool and the leaves fall from the trees, I start to get the feeling something bad is about to happen and I feel so helpless. I don't like it.

        So, last night as I lay in bed with my arms twined around two warm little bodies, helping them drift off to sleep, I tried to figure out how to deal with this. When I was younger, I would have invoked my faith and said, "My mom is in heaven (with my dad and brother) and they're happier there. It's selfish for me to be sad." But, I've lived a little since then and things are a bit more complicated than that. I don't have an easy answer because life is a combination of joys and sorrows, mundane and profound, gain and loss. Believing in something beyond this life doesn't mean the pain of saying goodbye just disappears. I miss my mom.

        But, for today, I will acknowledge the ache and empty place that losing my parents has left in me. I will grieve when I need to grieve, sob when I need to sob and yell when I need to yell. But, then I will get up, look around my life and sing for joy at the beauty I see in it.

        Just for today, I have an incredible, loving, strong, gentle,fun, wise (need I go on?) husband who is the match to my soul, the shade of my heart. Just for today, I have two lovely children, who teach me, amaze me, challenge me, make me laugh. Just for today, I have great friends, an extended loving family, a wonderful home, great job (complete with more truly amazing friends). Just for today, I will be grateful, I will smile and I will enjoy this day.

        I may never shake the sadness that the winter brings, but as it becomes a part of me, I will learn to balance it with gratitude for the woman who brought me into this world and the woman she is helping me to be even now that she is gone.

        Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

        November 20, 2009

        It's the "Snottiest" time of the year (or how to stay healthy for the holidays!)

        ****LONG POST ALERT!*****

        This time of year, seasonal colds and flues keep us mamas on our toes. Crowded shopping malls, late nights and sugary treats that start at Halloween and don't end till the New Year don’t help maintain good health. Common offered wisdom suggests a trip to the doctor’s office at the first sign of illness but that advice gets expensive with multiple kids and may not be all that wise. There is an alternate school of thought regarding doc visits and you can bet, it’s one I personally espouse.

        I’ve said before that in our house, nutrition, exercise (read: moving around in fresh air!), general good hygiene (washing hands after being around others) and using common sense (cancel play dates with feverish kids) go a long way in maintaining good health in the “snotty” season. Also, avoiding trips to the doctor when it’s likely an illness that will burn out on its own limits our kids’ exposure to new airborne illnesses they might not have yet had. Even a pediatrician meticulous about cleanliness can’t avoid the airborne viruses that – you know – FLY, like some kind of magic pixie dust (if there were BAD pixie dust). So, what’s a mom to do?

        You might have guessed that we don’t run to the doctor or request antibiotics every time we get a sniffle or even a fever. Fevers are our body’s way of fighting illness so while we watch fevers carefully and treat them as listed below we avoid Tylenol in favor of our kids’ having healthy livers. (See article) Of course, if at any time our children seemed dangerously ill, we’d seek medical attention. Usually they recover without a trip to the doctor.

        Here are some of the remedies we use for staying or getting healthy (‘cause let’s face it, even Organic Mama’s babies get the sniffles sometimes).

        At the first sign of illness – Common sense stuff
        • Don't WAIT till illness rears its ugly head. As soon as that "funky" feeling comes on...take action!
        • Put kids in bed on time (or early) and let them sleep in if at all possible
        • Avoid dairy & sugar
        • Avoid orange juice (freshly squeezed or otherwise). Contrary to popular belief, it increases phlegm in the body!
        • Add more clear (not sugary) liquids
        • Increase easy to digest, COOKED fresh veggies (uncanned)
        • Serve magic homemade chicken soup – get recipe here & info on why it works here 
        • Use Echinacea tincture
        • Use tea. Traditional Medicinals - has several great herbal teas formulated just for kids. They have one for colds, another for tummies and another for coughs. They include the proper way to prepare and dose the teas and they taste pretty good too. Available at places like Sprouts, Whole Foods, Sunflower markets etc.
        Specific Symptoms

        Stuffy noses
        • Use Saline nasal wash at least three times a day (We use Simply Saline for our kids since I can’t figure out how to convince a squirming 10 month old that a neti pot is fun!)
        • Rinse nose with Hydrogen Peroxide. 1 part HP to 5 parts water. THIS IS FOR ADULTS ONLY! Yes, you'll feel like ripping your face off with your bare hands. BUT, you will NOT get a sinus infection if you do this a few times as soon as you feel icky. 
        • **Forgot about one till last night - when we needed it! Vicks vapor rub. It's an old remedy and has petroleum jelly as a base, but it's golden!
        • Real lemonade – juice one lemon into 8 ounces of water and add honey or maple syrup (REAL, not the corn syrup kind) to taste. Kids love it, it contains natural Vit C and cools a fever
        • Echinacea Angustifolia tincture – in tea, water or juice. It’s a fever reducer and immune booster. Available at Whole foods, Chakra 4 etc.
        • Lukewarm showers or baths (never cold). Rapid temperature change can induce febrile seizures
        • Dark Honey – the BEST remedy for coughs and most kids love taking it. A study reported in 2007 confirmed that it works BETTER than cough medicine. And it’s all natural. Just offer a spoonful of dark honey - like buckwheat - when a child is coughing.
        • Cherry cough tea – spicy, sweet immune booster that soothes coughs. Recipe here
        • Chakra 4’s Flu berry tea - a spicy, warming tea that never fails to knock out whatever ails me when I take it at the start of a cold or flu! I use one ounce tea to four ounces water for my ten month old. The store can tell you how to make it and how much to use depending on age. Get their tea here.  
        • Vicks Vapor Rub. My mom used this on me and I hated it but I find myself turning to it as an adult - and my kids how well it works.
        If illness really catches us, we talk to Kita Centella, owner of Chakra 4, to get stronger herbs or we visit our Naturopath. 

        One of my favorite herbalists, Susan Weed, always says, “Herbs are the medicine of the people.” But remember, herbs ARE medicine so use them wisely and in an informed manner. A wise herbalist is a good guide.

        As always, info in my blog isn’t intended to replace the medical advice of a trusted health care professional. But, these are the remedies and health building practices that work for our family.

        Healthy blessings to you and yours this holiday season!

        1. I'm not a fan of juice unless it's freshly squeezed. Concentrated, pasteurized juice does not contain the original nutrients of the fruit and ends up being sugar water. But, if a child won't drink anything but juice, it's better than nothing! Water it down...

        2. Remember not to give honey to kids under a year (especially when it's not raw) because of the risk of botulism poison.
        3. Tinctures use alcohol to extract the medicinal properties of herbs into a concentrated doses. They come with little tiny droppers so the amount of alcohol to a child is negligible. We usually use 1 drop per 2 pounds of body weight but generally use the advice of a good herbalist in this.

        Magic Chicken Soup

        Organic Mama's Magic Chicken Soup

        1 whole organic uncooked chicken, remove gizzards & throw into the freezer till later (unless you like them in your soup)

        1 medium onion, finely chopped
        4 stocks of celery, finely chopped
        4 carrots, finely chopped
        4-7 cloves FRESH crushed garlic (immune boosting)
        2 T. Olive oil
        Sage (has drying properties)**See note!!***
        Sea Salt to taste (several Tablespoons)

        One Large stew pot

        Optional items - to be added once broth is strained:
        1-2 cups cooked rice. Cooked so you don't lose all the liquid in your soup. Great for those suffering from tummy distress.
        Any veggies you love to eat with chicken. Cut them into bite sized pieces so they're appealing to kids.
        Egg noodles


        1. Heat stew pot from med to med-high and add 2 T olive oil. It should easily swirl in pan 

        2. Add veggies (except garlic) and a couple pinches of salt to taste 

        3. When veggies are translucent, throw in garlic and cook for a minute more. Don't burn it because burnt garlic tastes just dreadful!!! 

        4. Place whole chicken (be sure to take out the guts first!) in pan and add water to cover the chicken by several inches 

        5. Add a small handful of sage

        6. Bring chicken to a boil and simmer till cooked (depending on size between 1 1/2 to 2 hours) 

        7. Salt and pepper to taste

        8. SERIOUSLY - SALT IT or it just won't taste good!!

          Another great way to make this is just to dump the ingredients in a crockpot and cook all day or overnight.

          Lazy girl (or really sick mama) method: When chicken is cooked, use the broth straight out of the pan and serve but watch for chicken bones.
          Motivated person method: Pour the liquid through a strainer into another pan or heat proof bowl. Place back in the pan and add egg noodles or rice and veggies as desired. When the chicken is cool enough, pull the meat off the bones and throw it back into the soup or use part of it throughout the week to make other chicken rich dishes.

          It's perfectly ok to add a little extra water if you find you've overdone it on the rice or veggies.

          It's important to use a whole chicken because the bones have nutrients that will strengthen and heal too!

          ****Pregnant mamas who have a tendency toward miscarriage may want to avoid sage. The rest of this recipe should be fine for you!****

          Cherry Cough Stop Tea

          Cherry Cough Tea

          Spicy and sweet, this boosts the immune system and soothes coughs

          1 Inch ginger root (peeled and minced)
          Juice and zest of one lemon
          One mashed garlic clove
          8 oz organic TART cherry juice
          8 oz water
          Honey - buckwheat or another dark honey works best

          • Bring ginger root to a boil in 8 oz water
          • Simmer for 5 minutes.
          • Add lemon, garlic, cherry juice and water
          • Let mixture simmer for another 4 minutes
          • Strain liquid into a cup for the patient and add honey to taste.
          If you need to cool it quickly, just add a few ice cubes

            November 11, 2009

            I DO still have a brain!

            Every week, I run into moms who are so tired and worn out, they don’t know which way is up. When I ask how much time they get alone, they often respond by laughing hysterically or by saying they don’t have time to fit that into the schedule. So…I’ve decided to post a “Take Time for Yourself” reminder every week – to remind me to take time out and encourage my friends to do the same! It rejuvenates me so much, I feel like I could run a marathon afterward. (Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration…but I do feel so much better!)

            This week, while sipping tea at my local hangout, instead of internet surfing/post writing/Facebooking, I had a lengthy conversation with a doctoral student who is working on a groundbreaking medical program. The possibility it has for changing medicine as we know takes my breath away – really! I didn’t ask his permission to post an explanation of his work so I won’t go into it. But the details of his dissertation don’t really matter as much as what that conversation did for me.

            Since having my first daughter, I often feel like my brain is too fried to process the kind of research that interested me prior to her birth. But tonight, for the first time in a long while, I feel fascinated, challenged and excited about something that fuels a passion in me – living life to the fullest and encouraging others to do the same. Part of that passion is related to individual health.

            For me, health isn’t the absence of being sick. Health is respecting my need to nurture myself in three major ways – mentally, physically and spiritually (not necessarily in that order). Tonight, by engaging in a lively conversation with someone far more knowledgeable than me, I rediscovered a part of my brain I thought might be dead forever. (What a relief to know it’s not!)

            In fact, I feel so good, I think I may go for a ru - I mean a hike!

            November 4, 2009

            Mirror, mirror on the wall

            A few weeks ago, I admitted we were addressing a new dynamic in our family circle – in the form of our daughter’s fervent determination to assert her opinion. My husband and I reviewed her schedule and some changes that resulted from the addition of a new baby to our family almost a year ago. Realizing our three year old was getting shorted on sleep and attention, we’ve done our best to maintain a regular routine and pay her more attention.

            But, the more I listen to the exchange between us – she and I - the more I realize it is I who need to change. More often than not, when she gets feisty with me, I get irritated with her, rather than teaching her a better way to approach the situation. Predictably, she reacts by escalating the emotion (and volume) of our encounter. And, believe me, she escalates like a true diva! When it happens in a public setting, I feel pressure to deal more harshly with her, as though some unseen eye is judging my value as a mom based on how hardcore a tantrum my daughter can throw and how serious a disciplinarian I am.

            Why do I respond this way? Why feel pressured by an invisible critic to parent in a way I abhor? I love my daughter and deeply believe in gentle parenting. I want to treat her the same way I would like to be treated. I want to take the time to listen, respond and teach by example and in love. Instead, I hear my voice saying harshly, “Enough! No more whining!” “Pick these toys up, NOW!” or “HURRY UP! We are going to be late!” Ugh. Not the image of Zen motherhood I imagined before reality actually descended upon me!

            In reality, the times I’m most irritated with her have little to do what she’s actually doing. Usually it’s a secondary reaction to a decision I’ve made. If I’m running late, a slight delay on her part cinches the deal. If my house is messy (because I neglected to get up earlier than the girls and deal with it), her toys on the floor make me crazy. If I choose to stay up past my bedtime to get some time alone and wake exhausted, her being tired and whiny sends me right over the edge.

            Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting here beating myself up. Well, maybe a little. But mostly, I’m just realizing that motherhood, like other great challenges in life, has a way of illuminating the areas in us that most need attention. I am definitely not the one with all the answers. But, for this moment, I’m going to be humble, acknowledge my shortcomings - and forgive and love myself in spite of them. And the next time my daughter throws her whiny voice my way, instead of getting irritated, I’m going to stop what I’m doing, lean down, give her a big hug and figure out how we can fix – whatever it is - together.

            October 29, 2009

            Going all "Oprah" on you.

            Ahhh…alone at last. It’s been at least two weeks since my last mom’s night out ALONE and I need it badly. Since my last freedom night, I’ve weathered two sick kids (and husband), everyday life with small people, a trip to Disneyland and a concert in which I had a major solo and a major sinus infection at once. WHEW.

            The result of too much time serving and not enough time in solitude is me - sitting here with a blank mind – and not the kind that comes from the careful practice of a spiritual discipline. I am experiencing the kind of mind numbing blankness that comes from spending all my time wiping runny noses, changing diapers, surviving tantrums and day-long drives with a ten month old. I parent from the time I wake each morning to the time I wake the next day!

            A few days ago, I reached my capacity for “giving” without a break. I actually got up in the middle of the night (for me, that’s around 11 PM) to catch some time alone. After laughing through my favorite TV shows (thank God for the internet!), I finally went to bed around 3:30 AM feeling refreshed. It’s a good thing my husband was home the next day to let me sleep in!

            Even though I know I need time alone, I keep finding myself challenged to actually take it. Without time alone, I can’t hear myself think. I can’t be the mom I want to be to my girls. I get so stressed I can’t enjoy my life right now – crazy schedule and house and all – and it is flying by so quickly.  I know I can’t be the only mom with small kids who has this problem so I’m going to keep sharing my experience as a reminder to me and friends with the same challenge. To be the best mom I can be, I have to take time to just be ME.

            This week -

            I WILL remember to take time to be alone. Even if it means I go when the baby's crying (she's with someone who loves her!) and the house is less than perfect, I'll LEAVE it all behind for a few hours.  I'll trade babysitting with a friend or let dad watch the kids alone for a while. It will be good for them!

            I WILL NOT wait till life gets less stressful or busy. Chances are, it won't. I want to enjoy every minute I'm given with my family and friends. I'll take a break and come back feeling more equipped to handle it. I only get one pass at this life and I won't let it pass me by because there are dirty dishes in the sink.

            October 27, 2009

            Oh us!

            When I was about six months pregnant with my first daughter (read: hormone-filled and more than a little sleep deprived!), my in-laws asked my husband and me to house sit and watch their dog while they vacationed. We gladly obliged. It was near Christmas. Their house was already decorated for the occasion and presents were under the tree.

            The two of us enjoyed a nice dinner together and a few shows on the big screen TV. (That would be any TV bigger than our 13” model). Then, tired, we took the little dogs out one last time and went to bed. After a few hours, we were wakened by voices and the sound of packages being ripped apart in the living room. Our dogs were barking like crazy.

            We called 911. The operator told us to stay on the line and in our room. Within two minutes, three police cars squealed up in front of the house “Rockford” style. We looked out the window to see officers approaching the house, guns drawn with their flashlights out – just like on CSI. It was really impressive and totally cool. The police helicopter arrived moments later and beamed a huge light over the area – in case the “perps” tried to escape. Meanwhile, my husband and I moved his parents’ HUGE dresser in front of the bedroom door to prevent the possibility of a hostage situation.

            After a few moments, the 911 operator said the house was secure, officers were inside and that we could open our bedroom door to admit them. Of course, we had to ask them to wait a minute while we moved the giant dresser AWAY from the door! It took a lot longer to remove it than it had taken to put it there.

            When we opened the door, the officers confirmed that we were safe. We went into the living room with them, where they’d discovered the perpetrator. The source of the voices we’d heard was – the TV we’d forgotten to turn off! And the rustling packages? A mylar balloon that had become tangled in a ceiling fan. The officers also pointed out that a back door was unlocked and that we shouldn’t leave it that way.

            Oh. My. Word.

            After sheepishly thanking the police for their time, we made a pact NEVER to reveal this humiliating story to anyone! Imagine my surprise a few years later when my father-in-law asked if I’d ever seen the police report from this incident. I tried to play dumb but he knew. We hadn’t counted on the neighbors on his block ratting us out.

            I guess I'll never live this down - especially from those of my friends who are officers of the law. But, what’s the point of life if not to find the humor in it – even if it makes you look ridiculous?

            Tree of Life

            During my last pregnancy, I wanted to get a henna tattoo on my belly to symbolize the special journey I was on toward a different kind of birthing experience. In my mind, I pictured a Tree of Life, strong and grounded yet able to sway without breaking when the wind blew it. I imagined life coursing through its limbs, nourishing each twig and leaf.

            Unfortunately, due to the crazy nature of our home environment before I delivered (drawn out construction etc), my plan didn’t come to fruition. But, during that time, when I felt my day careening off course, I closed my eyes, pictured my tree and tried to imagine the strength of those roots grounding me while a soft breeze refreshed me.

            The amazing part of this story is that when I gave birth to my second daughter, my midwife offered me a look at the placenta. Then she asked, “Do you know there is a picture on it?” Surprised, I looked at what she was holding. There on its side of the placenta was an incredible network of veins which had nourished and sustained my daughter for nine months – in the shape of a Tree of Life.

            I don’t think this is necessarily unique to me but it was a profound experience for me to see an image of the thing I had imagined all those months. In that moment, I felt an incredible gratitude and respect for this body I am privileged to inhabit – and its ability to create, nourish and sustain a tiny life within itself. Incredible.

            October 26, 2009

            The wise women in my life…

            When I was in my early twenties, someone introduced me to the idea of learning life lessons from a mentor - a more experienced, wiser (hopefully) person. I didn’t really know how to go about getting a mentor but it sounded like a great idea. So, I asked a woman about ten years my senior if she would be willing to mentor me. She said she’d consider it and let me know. She never got back to me but years later, as a mom of two (she had three small kids), I realize what a sacrifice of time I was asking of her.

            Although my friend didn’t respond to my request for wise counsel, my request for guidance didn’t go unheeded. In fact, at that time, I got not one but several wise counselors who made time for me regularly. They just appeared around me in various places – two work friends, a roommate, a colleague’s wife. At the moments I most needed a word of wisdom, it seemed I was surrounded with kindness, wisdom and grace.

            These days, I don’t go around seeking wise women. They are all around me. Wise women come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Sometimes I know them for years and sometimes they just make a brief appearance at the time I most need them. Regardless of where I meet them or how long we connect they are integral to my growth as a woman.

            While I appreciate and glean wisdom from most of the women I know, I am usually blessed to have a few close friends who I consider my "women's circle". Right now, I have at least three wise women in my life. They are all around the age my mom would have been had she lived and one of them was her dear friend. These are women who keep my confidences and women on whose counsel I depend. I want to honor these women for their friendship, their wisdom and their willingness to share themselves with me. I am deeply grateful.

            October 10, 2009

            Do I really need Nanny 911?

            This “Nanny 911” experience with my daughter really shook my confidence as a mother. Should I hit my child *lovingly, of course* when she disobeyed or acted like a crazy loon? If I did, how could I tell her not to hit others? Could we handle this by ourselves or did we need professional help? A talk with some of the wise women in my life restored my confidence. After the initial shock, I knew that we could figure this out together and that whatever we did would be consistent with our family motto of "training a child in the way she SHOULD go,” not just punishing her for making the wrong choice.

            I hunkered down to figure out how to solve the problem. Had something changed lately in our routine/life to cause this shift? I soon realized that this was not an overnight change. Here are some changes that precipitated her preschool craziness!

            1.Arrival of a new baby nine months ago. I spent a lot of time saying, “Just a minute,” “Wait till I’m done with the baby”, and “Not now, I have to finish _____ first.” New babies definitely need immediate attention but my oldest was getting the short end of the stick.

            2. Inconsistent sleep schedule

            3. Not enough time out of the house doing physical activity. I was a full time pumper till just recently and dragging my pump, diaper bag, cold bag, baby car seat and hot little girls around in the super-steamy summer just seemed like too much some days.

            4. She turned three. It’s a normal and healthy part of her growth to develop a strong idea of what she wants to do. When her idea doesn’t mesh with what we need to accomplish that day, we need to help her manage those inner urges of anger/frustration, express them in a positive way and move on.

            Oops! I know how I feel when I’m exhausted and feeling neglected by my loved ones – SUPER GRUMPY! Why do I expect my daughter to manage her emotions perfectly – when she has fewer coping skills than I? Hmmm…Not sure how we got to this place but I think it might be the whole being “overwhelmed” by moving from one little handful of fun to two bundles of energy.

            Next ... what we are changing to help our oldest cope with change better.

            October 8, 2009

            Unintended wisdom

            Something a respected friend of mine said to me lately has not left my thoughts for some time. It was in relation to diaper free training(see earlier post), which she thinks of as a waste of time. Her comment, “I think that just trains the parent.”

            At the time she said it, I laughed because it’s true. Diaper free does require discipline on the part of a parent, just like everything else in parenting. Everything we do as parents to keep our children healthy and safe and to train them to engage in healthy social interaction requires - of us - consistency and discipline.

            Another friend of mine told me recently that gentle parenting (read: spank-free parenting) is exhausting because it requires so much discipline of a parent. Creating a relationship that goes both ways and helps a kid to internalize right and wrong in a way that makes them WANT to choose the right rather than forcing them to is no small task.

            Most of all, parenting requires discipline because our children learn so much more from watching our behavior than from listening to our instruction. I hope that from my spirit and my behavior, my daughters learn about living truthfully, loving others, nurturing their spirits and enjoying every minute of this beautiful life we have the chance to live.

            Thanks to my friend for making the observation – even if my response wasn’t quite what she intended. I appreciate the reminder.

            October 6, 2009

            Traveling the path together...

            When my daughter first started pitching these incredible three-year-old tantrums, I didn’t know what to do. I alternated between horrified, embarrassed, angered and exhausted by the change. Where did my sweet little friend go? I felt like something special between us had died. I also experienced a good dose of mother’s guilt as I tried to determine what I could have done wrong to “break” my little girl. (My husband never suffers this kind of guilt btw…)

            But, I’ve regained my equilibrium and I’m coming clean. My daughter is not, of course, broken but IS still smart, funny, sweet and beautiful. She can also be a little stinker. So, our recent ventures into this new developmental phase reminded us of our parenting goals.

            Since before our daughter was born, my husband and I agreed that we wanted to use a different parenting approach than the one we both experienced growing up and the one many of our friends were using, namely – punishment and spanking. While we deeply respect our parents and appreciate the love and wisdom they put into raising us, we feel that telling a child not to hit and then hitting them, no matter how “lovingly” seems inconsistent and confusing.

            Our goal is to show our children, by example, the way they should go. We don’t want fear of punishment to be our kids’ motivation to do the right thing. Rather, by listening, quickly responding and showing our daughters the same respect we expect from them, we work to build a connection that will assure them they can always count on us to respond to them with love, no matter what they have done or who they become. As we travel the path of life with them, experiencing its beauty and challenges together, we wish them to internalize the character qualities - integrity, love, discipline, strength and compassion - we value in ourselves.

            More to come…

            October 5, 2009

            Pros of home birth…

            Here are some of the things I liked about home birth.

            1 My own space & my own germs (not the super-staph and other stuff at the hospital). I felt relaxed, which I believe contributed to a much shorter labor. I also got a lot of cleaning done (both bathrooms) in early labor and it distracted me.

            2. The feeling of letting my body do what it was meant to do – create, nurture and give birth to life. While the pain was of the “Holy **** - Why did I think I wanted to do this naturally??” variety, it helped me to know just when to push and push effectively and when to take a break.

            3. My midwife did not constantly tell me how far I’d dilated – so I wasn’t in competition with the clock. I progressed in my own time.

            4. Being aware and happy that my baby had arrived safely.

            5. Going to bed in my own home afterward and actually sleeping rather than having someone wake me every hour to check on me.

            6. Getting to see the placenta. The amazing veins running through it are shaped just like a tree of life. It was incredible. What a wonderful picture of its purpose.

            7. Being alone with my husband so we could sleep and enjoy together, just us two, a night with the new little miracle that our love created.

            8. Midwife attendant who could monitor the baby's heartbeat - and remind me that I could get through the pain to see my little girl.

            I am so happy with the way homebirth turned out and if I ever give birth again, I’ll be calling my midwife.

            October 4, 2009

            Birth choice 2

            In my second birth experience, I woke on a Sunday morning (39 weeks) to contractions that felt different from the Braxton Hicks I’d been having for the last six weeks. When my husband came home for lunch I told him he could go back to work but warned him that we’d probably be having a baby in the next day or so. I woke from a nap with my oldest daughter around 5 pm to much stronger contractions. Yet, while they felt different, they didn’t seem strong enough to be “it”.

            While the contractions didn’t seem that strong, I couldn’t concentrate long enough to finish anything I started. I called my sister and asked her to come over and make dinner for my daughter. I had no concentration power to do it myself! She told me to call my midwife but I demurred, not sure these were the “real thing”. “They don’t hurt enough to be real labor!” I said. Then I hung up because I was having a contraction. DENIAL!

            I realized my sister’s wisdom and called my midwife. She said based on the distance between contractions I should try to get some rest. When I hung up the phone, the doorbell rang and I opened it to find my sister and a friend standing there. They decided I was in labor (I was still unconvinced!) and moved quickly around my house picking up, fixing a dinner for my two year old and whisking her away for the night. They also convinced me to call my husband – so he could be home in time for the delivery.

            I called both my husband and midwife to give them an update. When they each arrived around 9 pm, I was DEFINITELY in labor. By this time, I’d cleaned both bathrooms (except the tub) and needed help. My husband cleaned the tub while my midwife checked my cervix. It was still high and back but I could hardly sit still for her to check. Excruciating! I asked if being in the tub at this point would slow things down but she encouraged me to do what seemed comfortable.

            I knew I wanted to birth in the tub so I hopped in and tried to relax. I didn’t worry about time. I breathed and moaned low and deep through the contractions, thinking of round, open objects. When my bag of waters finally broke with a POP, I felt a strong, insistent need to push. Afraid of the pain at first, I cringed through the contractions and remember thinking, “I am NEVER doing this again!” (How quickly we change our minds!)

            My wise midwife knew what I was doing and encouraged me “When you get serious about pushing, she’ll come.” I stopped hiding from the pain and pushed. It was the turning point and within about twenty minutes, I felt a huge release. My baby’s head was out. The rest of the delivery was easy.

            My little daughter arrived about 6 hours from the time I realized I was in labor. As soon as she was born, I held her to my chest and I wondered at how small she seemed – only 8 lbs! My midwife and her apprentice bustled about, checking the baby, bringing me a snack, checking me (I didn’t tear at all this time) and helping to deliver the placenta. Then, they let me take a minute long shower (no joke, my midwife ordered me out!) and helped me downstairs to bed.

            The hours following the birth went quickly. My midwife and her apprentice stayed for several hours, keeping tabs on me, cleaning up their supplies and rinsing out my tub. When they finally left, my husband and I remembered that we hadn’t taken any pictures, so we snapped a shot of the three of us with my cell phone and then, happy and content, fell asleep with our new little charge.

            October 2, 2009

            Birth choices...

            After the birth of my first daughter, I knew in future births, I'd want something different from the hospital environment and spent time thinking about how the first time differed from what I’d hoped to experience. I wanted to be in my own space, free to move and make noise if I wanted to and to be un-drugged when my baby arrived. I also wanted the attendance of an experienced midwife who would support me in the moments I didn’t think I could make it and be there to monitor my baby's safety. I am pro homebirth but I was not ready to have an unassisted birth. 

            We planned carefully and I took some time to mentally prepare myself for the upcoming birth. We went over the birth plan with our midwife and had a backup plan to transport to a local hospital in case of an emergency. But both my husband and I believe strongly that a woman’s body is specially designed to give birth without interventions. We still did all the normal labs and had an ultrasound to be sure our baby was low risk for a home birth. I also worked through a great book by Pam England called Birthing from Within and highly recommend it.

            My wonderful midwife, Pam White, walked me through thirty-nine weeks with wisdom and compassion. By the time of the birth, she was truly a friend and I felt a strong degree of trust in both her experience as a professional midwife and as a mother who had been where I was going. She knew when to encourage me and when be silent. She respected the intimate moment that my second daughter's birth became for us and we connected in a very profound way.
            My husband, in particular, preferred the home birth experience to the hospital. Since my midwife and her apprentice were there for the entire labor (for the last few hours), he felt free to run to the kitchen for juice or just be available to support me as I needed him. He felt my midwife was far more attentive than the doctor we had at the hospital.

            There are people who give me that “Wow, you’re so brave to birth at home” comment. Some of them mean it and some of them are clearly thinking, “You’re so crazy to birth at home.” That’s ok. This is a big world with room for lots of different ways of doing things. I'm glad chose to invite Pam to be part of this moment in our lives.

            Nanny 911

            My husband and I just learned the myth of the terrible two’s is a red herring designed to distract parents from the reality that three is SO-MUCH-HARDER! At two, my daughter definitely had different opinions at times regarding her plan vs. ours. When those differences happened, we used diversion, distraction and sometimes the “pick-her-up-and-carry-her method”. Most of the time, my daughter was (and is) funny, verbose and filled with imaginative ideas for play and our methods worked.

            But recently, my sweet girl turned (seemingly) overnight into a foot stomping, tantrum throwing, “NO!” slinging little monster. What happened?! A few of these incidents have happened in public and really took me by surprise. I won’t recount full stories. Let’s just say, almost all involve crying (LOUDLY), dramatically throwing herself on the floor and refusing to get up and come with me. The best one was when she screamed, “Don’t take me!! Don’t TAKE ME!!!!” at the top of her lungs and everyone thought I was stealing my own kid. Nice.

            I looked like the perfect candidate for that show, Nanny 911.

            Suddenly, diversion, distraction and the pick-her-up-and-carry-her method weren’t working. Diversion and distraction no longer work because a three year old is a very focused person and no longer responds to, “Oh look – an airplane!!” when she wants something. Pick-her-up-and-carry-her isn’t effective when you’re pushing a stroller loaded with a diaper bag, pump, bottle bag, other bags, heavy carseat (filled with a baby) and you have to pick up a very strong, squirming, screaming three-year old.

            Since this first happened, it seems like moms of three year olds have come out of the wood work to tell me how frustrated they are. In line at Starbucks the other day, another mom (with a three year old) and I struck up a conversation. When I commented on how sweet her daughter was, the first words out of her mouth were, "Three is SO MUCH HARDER THAN TWO!" (Emphasis hers) So, this post will be the first in a series of what we are doing to deal with the new challenge of the torrential threes.

            Stay posted!

            September 29, 2009

            A strong immune system - not built in a day - or in a shot

            There has been a lot of discussion, information and panic circulating with regard to H1N1 (swine flu) . The media generates a lot of it with their "if it bleeds, it leads" manner of reporting but the AMA (American Medical Association) is leading the way with recommendations of early vaccinations for the new virus. But, as usual, we're not hearing the valuable reminder of the need for a healthy immune system in those of us who aren't in the high risk categories (young, old, immune diseased).

            I'd like to offer another thought - with respect to those who disagree with me and have already vaccinated their young.

            SLEEP, whole fresh foods, exercise and common sense choices like frequent hand washing are the best defense against illness.When that fails, there are also great herbal immune boosters that will help most people get through flu like illnesses.

            When we start to get sick in our family, we immediately take fresh garlic cloves in a honey base and Echinacea tincture. That usually prevents illness from spreading any further. But, if we don't catch it in time, depending on the illness, we move on to a stronger herbal preparation. I also make my special homemade chicken soup, loaded with delicious and nutrient filled ingredients and the sickie GOES TO BED until he or she is well. We work hard to keep everything clean so we don't pass it around but we always hug and love our patient back to health.

            A culture of fear that scares people into getting a vaccine which has the potential to make a TON of money for the manufacturer is not a good way to build health. Encouraging people to slow down and make wise choices with regard to nutrition, stress reduction and sleep would go a lot further to preventing the spread of something like H1N1. But that wouldn't make money for anyone would it...?

            What I'm offering here isn't meant to replace care from a trusted health care adviser. But I do mean to offer an reasonable alternative to a subject that's been given a lot of panicked air time.

            Be well.

            September 27, 2009

            Trading kids...for this!

            This week, my husband and I got to go on a day trip together - ALONE! It was almost surreal to drive alone, hike alone and eat alone. We had a wonderful time and returned to our house totally refreshed and full of secret smiles for each other. We felt rather giddy - like we were dating again! Best of all, when we returned, our girls were racing around having a great time with their friends and hadn't even missed us. :)

            How did we accomplish this miracle? Well...a friend of mine recently moved down the street from me and we've decided to trade babysitting. She and her husband love hiking too so we're gong to switch days with each other. So, we can both get free babysitting for a long day out with our guys. Friday was our first time trading. Our girls had a fabulous time and so did we. It's nice to find someone we can trust with our children (besides our family) for a significant stretch of time.

            We'll definitely be doing this again!

            September 26, 2009

            Birth Choices

            We all have to make choices about the way we give birth – up to a point. I’ve made two distinctly different choices in my two birthing experiences and have to say, I vastly preferred the home version. Both were a learning experience and of course, I wouldn’t trade the little person I gained in each situation!

            The first time I chose to birth in the hospital because my husband wanted it. Knowing I could birth “naturally” no matter where I was, I agreed. We created a simple birth plan letting the hospital staff know we’d like the birth to be as free of interventions as possible. Twenty-four hours after my water broke with no discernible progress, I chose pitocin and an epidural though my baby wasn’t in distress and I had no fever. My doc gave me the option of continuing naturally but I was so tired after having had labor for a few nights I was afraid I wouldn’t be strong enough to push. At my suggestion, my husband was asleep on the couch!

            Four hours after choosing the drugs, I gave birth at the complete direction of the doctor (since I had no feeling in my legs). I suffered a deep tear since my daughter weighed almost ten pounds and I was lying down to birth. The tear took weeks to heal and the codeine I took for the pain had strong side effects on me as well as the baby.

            By far, the deepest hurt I felt came from the narcotics in the cocktail I chose to take. They left me feeling ambivalent about the birth experience, disconnected from my daughter and a little like clawing the ceiling. It was weeks before I felt the connection I expected to have with my daughter. Also, I seriously struggled with post-partum depression after this baby.

            I don’t live in regret over this experience. But I knew after this delivery that next time, I would make some different decisions.

            September 24, 2009

            Lighter moments...

            Sometimes as a mom, it's easy to think of days as good or bad. When you have a preschooler and baby crying or tugging on you (or maybe four at once as some of my friends have!) while you're trying to accomplish something that seems imperative, it's almost overwhelming. I find myself exhausted at the end of the day, trying to remember those happy moments we had - and often failing.

            From now on, I'm going to try to focus on the happier moments of my days - while they're happening - and think of them as little lights that out-glow the more challenging times.

            For instance, today we had a bit of a rocky start at my house as I dropped my husband off at work and then started off to run an essential errand. I was immediately reminded of the following equation!

            One sleep deprived preschooler who doesn't want to go anywhere
            + baby who HATES her car seat on her best days (this wasn't one of them)
            = two grumpy girls using their lungs to express their displeasure to the fullest capacity

            They were so loud that to maintain my sanity I actually got out of the car and called my husband. Those of you who know me - just imagine two of me - screaming at the top of my lungs. ACK!

            After everyone calmed down, my preschooler apologized ON HER OWN for her behavior (YAY!), the baby fell asleep and we ran our errands without incident. We had a great time laughing and talking together and when we arrived at the store, both girls spent time delighting other shoppers with their winsome ways.

            At home, my oldest decided to take a little shower and her baby sister joined her. I had a great time watching them laugh at each other and splash around together. There will be other happy moments this afternoon (they don't know it but a neighbor has kittens!) and I'll do my best to enjoy them as they come rather than thinking of all the things I should be doing or haven't done. These moments are the reason I do what I do and I refuse to miss out on them!!

            September 23, 2009

            Embarrassing stories...of me

            My daughter is really into story telling. She loves to hear stories of princesses, knights and dragons but she also loves for us to tell her stories about us.

            Lately, she’s been on a kick where she asks me to tell her stories about me. Today, I realized that all my stories of the kind you would share for your “most embarrassing moment” at some cheesy mixer.

            “Mom, tell me about the time you were riding the horse and it bucked you off.” (More like slid me over her head onto my bum. So humiliating for a wannabe cowgirl!)


            “Mom, tell me about the time you thought that girl was playing with your hair but she was putting gum in it.” (the reason I hate gum to this day!)


            “Mom, tell me about that story when you were in college and wearing your funny shoes and a backpack and you fell over backwards like a turtle right in front of everyone!.” (This happened in slow motion with my arms flaying wildly and my friend shouting, “NOOOooooo” with the weirdest delayed sound effect. Another student came over to me as soon as it happened - ostensibly to help me up. But, when he noticed me laughing hysterically on the ground (I really couldn’t get up!), he WALKED away and left me there.

            Wait till she hears about the time I fainted in the middle of a gig - and I was the gig...

            *Sigh.* She's going to think I'm so cool.


            Tonight, I left my daughter calling to me from the front window as I left for my “night out”. Not only was she crying heart-brokenly, she’d jumped out of her bath to chase me down – she was also naked. I pulled her little octopus-like arms and legs off me trying to convince her I wouldn’t be gone long, I loved her, to please not cry. My husband shooed me out of the house and I walked away wondering, “Am I a terrible mom for leaving her like that?”

            The truth is, I haven’t been getting time away lately and I’m beginning to feel it. My humor, mental acuity and patience (not to mention romantic inclinations) all suffer without time away. We women have an incredible capacity to care for our families but we need to remember that if we don’t nurture ourselves first, we will have nothing left to nurture those around us. I find the more time I take for myself, the more I recognize the need to carve out multiple little spaces in my day to remind me that I’m more than just a mom.

            The bonus for my efforts? I ran into a sister (easy to do when you have so many!), another friend - and met someone new. I returned after only two hours - feeling refreshed and ready to face motherhood again. Pretty good for a night that started with such sad drama!

            So, to answer my earlier question…I’ll be a better mom to that crying girl in the window if I take the time to find the human, woman, friend, reader, lover etc. hiding somewhere inside me…

            Too much Disney Princess!

            Here are some of the things my three year old has been saying lately that have me questioning just how old she REALLY is...

            Out of the blue - "Mom, I'll NEVER find my prince!" (said with a sigh)

            As I was trimming her nails... "Mom, NOT my wonderful nails!!"
            To which I replied, "They're too long, honey. They'll get dirty."
            She answered, "No, they're BEAUTIFUL!!" (emphasis hers)

            Finally, overheard while we were driving in the car,
            "And when see him, I will touch his face with my hands and kiss him"

            Can anyone say, TOO MUCH DISNEY PRINCESS???

            September 7, 2009

            "Altar-ing" my space...

            After spending some time writing and relaxing in a local coffee shop today, part of my “mom” time before cleaning like the Tasmanian devil (well, the opposite of the TD), I picked up a book on decorating. The title said something like, “Altar Your Space”. Yes, as in make it an “Altar” (though I’m really needing to alt-ER my space). Anyway, the whole book was filled with these lovely spiritual thoughts about making your space sacred and feng shui, blah, blah, blah. It was beautiful, of course.

            Often when I read these things, I feel frustrated because I can never quite keep my space as “altar” like or “Zen” as I would like. But today it occurred to me that there are no toys in any of these pictures. If there are, they are neatly tucked away somewhere in a single solitary room, presumably along with kids dressed in beautiful, clean, pressed organic clothing that matches their surroundings. I’ve yet to see a small townhouse organized in such a way so the little girls who live there can carry their box of treasures around and dump them on the floor (tiny dolls, tiny shoes, tiny everything) so they can play with or be near mom no matter what she’s doing (usually pumping or cleaning).

            I guess my house would be totally different if I outlawed toys in the downstairs “altar-like” spaces. But I WANT to see my little girl play while I’m working on other things. I WANT to be able to stop what I’m doing and join her. As long as she’s little and playing here, I’ll do my best to keep things organized in their place (and I CAN do better at that) but for now, she’s free to roam around, dumping her little treasures at my feet so we can share them together. I think for now, that IS my altar. I feel so much better.

            Not so indefatigable after all…

            Today, I accomplished something amazing! I completely wore out my un-wear-outable three year old daughter. We started the day in Grandma’s back yard, despite the heat. Soon, we left to get some lunch and rather than driving to the mountains (which I could hardly resist given my recent return to hiking) we headed to the mall for some more fun. She and her little sister had so much fun there. We stayed a whole hour and she even made some little girlfriends who shared their dolls.

            After the mall, we went by the store to buy some eggs and she talked happily about the cookies we planned to bake that afternoon. As we headed home, she fell fast asleep in the car. When we got home, I carried her inside and she didn’t even stir when I put her on the couch. She slept for two and a half hours and was happy the whole evening before bed.

            Maybe this seems funny but I feel such a sense of accomplishment at figuring this out and implementing it! It’s nice to know when you’ve done something right.

            Not a domestic diva

            August 2009

            For those of you who are domestic divas, this one isn’t for you.
            For all of you who struggle to keep the house picked up, dishes clean, floor swept…for those whose laundry ends up thrown on the couch, or the bed, or the only open chair in the room. For those of you who, coming or going, use the chair by the front door as a holding place for whatever you don’t need to take or whatever extras you brought home, this is for you.

            I have a dirty secret. My house is dirty – a lot of the time. I hate to admit it because in my heart, I despise dirt. I’m actually a bit of a germaphobe. My husband accused me of being the next Howard Hughes and he didn’t mean the brilliant part. Well, he actually said Hugh Hefner – but I knew what he meant. I digress...

            I’m not sure why I turned out this way. *Sigh* My family is very spatially organized. I like organization but the small size of my house and my slightly half hazard approach to housekeeping isn’t doing me any favors. It takes me forever to settle on an organizing system but once I get there, I’m pretty good at keeping it. If only I could finish the organizing!

            However, I think I may have found my redemption. Recently, I stumbled across a website called She posts cleaning tips and even cleaning schedules online along with a good dose of encouragement for those of us who are less than domestic divas. I love her reminder that my house didn’t get this way overnight so I have to be patient as I learn to organize my space, my time and keep it that way. I’m really getting better at this thanks to her! If you really need help, you can even sign up for email updates or RSS feeds.

            A new lease on life - from a simple cup of coffee

            August 30, 2009

            I’m sitting in my local coffee shop this morning, my last week of sabbatical from work, with a feeling of excitement and hope in my heart. It’s been about a month since I committed to a time of solitude every week and it's the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

            This time to myself has brought about a change in me I really didn’t anticipate. It’s rejuvenated me spiritually and mentally and helped me to remember who I am. I recognize areas of my life that need attention and improvement. It allows me to be more efficient in my daily tasks so that I can spend more time with my girls. It’s given me the drive to get out during the week to see friends and create play dates for my kids. It’s even helped me to lose weight. I’ve come up with a new business idea and the courage to actually pursue it past the initial stage. As I spent this time alone, I found other pockets of time in my day that allow me brief respites which recharge me and help me to be a better mom, partner and person.

            Thank you to me! :) – for realizing I needed this. Thank you to my coffee shop for providing the space and thank you to the babysitter for helping me to get out of the house. I am grateful and promise to keep doing it. Now that I’ve started I can never go back.

            "Shine your sink" - courtesy of the Flylady

            August 24, 2009

            Today I woke up to a not-so-clean house. After a full weekend of being gone and not getting our regular “straightening” done, I had quite a mess to clean up! My DH, bless him, loaded and ran the dishwasher last night but there were already more dishes on the counter, toys on the floor (along with dirt), a messy dining room table and clothes strewn about the small downstairs space (frequent costume changes by my daughter).

            When I wake up to a mess this large, my mind feels so cluttered I don’t know where to start – SO…I hop on Facebook to see what other people are doing. Of course, I’ve turned off the newsfeed of actual domestic divas who just annoy me by announcing they’ve got not only a clean house but also hold down a full time job, home school their kids and knit afghans for poor children in Africa while baking 6 dozen cookies. Like I really need to feel any worse about myself!! Usually when I choose this course of action, I either don’t get anything done or if I do accomplish much, I don’t spend much time enjoying my daughters.

            But, recognizing my tendency to extreme avoidance when I feel overwhelmed by housework, I vowed not to spend my time on the internet or phone today. Instead, I channeled one of my favorite organizing/cleaning gurus, the Flylady. Her mantra is “shine your sink”. So, not knowing where to start, I emptied out my kitchen sink and shined it. It looked amazing so I did all the dishes. Feeling energized, I kept going.

            This is the plan I followed:

            1. Shine the sink
            2. Finish cleaning the zone I started (kitchen/dining)
            3. Pick up the floor, table and counters
            4. Wipe the same
            5. Sweep the floor
            6. Clean the floor with home made cleaning solution and my deck brush (this is my super-duper cleaning tool) and wipe with a clean towel
            7. STOP to eat and play with the kids.

            I cleaned with a zealous vigor while my youngest took a nap and my oldest played with her toys and then watched a little educational TV (a great use of TV!). It took about two hours for me to do all this, mainly because I’m a little psychotic about my floors but it felt great to have a clean space to play and have lunch with my kids. I’m really proud of what I accomplished today.

            Organizing my life

            In my ongoing effort to organize my life, I’ve made some great changes. I’ve added some regularity to my schedule, like creating certain days for things and not being out too late at night so our kids don’t go insane. Every week, we spend Saturday morning together as a family, going to the farmer’s market and running various errands. Then, we come home, unpack our groceries and attempt to create some order in our space so I don’t go crazy the rest of the week. We try to leave to Saturdays only those activities I just can’t get done with two children in tow.

            I also made it my goal to make time for myself – like an hour each Sunday morning – when I write or do other things I enjoy. So far, I’ve made it to the coffee shop and spent time writing on my laptop. A few days ago, my dh informed me that I WILL be taking more time for myself, (like it or not) one more day a week. He thinks unhealthy for me and us not to have have some time off from the kids. I know he’s right and I actually cried with relief when he told me his plan. Every Tuesday, as soon as he gets home, I have to be ready to walk out the door and spend time alone for two hours. I just need to get back in time for dinner (which he'll cook!). What an amazing idea!!! I can’t wait to start.
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