Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lots to Be Thankful for...

I'm feeling extra thankful this Thanksgiving for all the blessings in my life. Here's what I'm giving thanks for:

An extra supportive husband who is a true partner and a true friend.

Two wonderful little girls who I love to pieces.

Parents who live close by and will pitch in when needed, but also give me my space.

In-laws who live for visits with my kids and will entertain them while I get some extra ZZZ's in the morning.

Daycare providers who I completely trust with my kids.

A job that lets me spend much more time at home with my kids than I did previously.

Nick Jr. for entertaining my kids when I need a few minutes to get work done.

Friends who understand why I don't always keep in touch as much as I should, but enjoy the time we have together when I do have time.

Good health.

A roof over my head.

A wonderful life. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Hope you have lots to be thankful for as well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Finding the Inspiration

It's been difficult lately to find the inspiration for a lot of things in my life lately.

Blog? Uh yeah, haven't updated in a while.

Work? Been stuck in a cycle of endless writing and little time to devote to the projects I'd really like to do. I've adopted that freelancer's mantra of "If they're offering money, take it." Because that paycheck could always stop, and working is not optional for me.

But I'm thinking (hoping) I've turned a corner.

I went to the launch party last night for Boston Parent Bloggers, and met many great parent bloggers, many of whom have very successful blogs. It got me thinking a lot about the direction I want to take this blog and what I really want it to be. So I'm hoping that will give me a swift kick in the butt to keep with this and turn it into a great resource for other moms and dads.

In terms of work, I had a discussion the other day with this woman I do work for about my future with the company, which she would like to be much greater than it currently is. While I considered that quite a compliment, I also got to thinking, "Is this what I really want to do with my life? Is this what I see myself doing for the next 5 years? 10 years?" And when I was perfectly honest with myself, that answer was "no."

So where does that leave me? At the moment, it leaves me with a blog with a one-month gap in it, and still doing work for this company that's great money at the moment, but not where I see myself long-term.

But I'm starting to get some inspiration. Just a flicker at the moment, but I'm hoping in the days, weeks and months ahead, it will turn into much better things for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Almost allergy-free! (I hope...)

My younger daughter passed Test #2 of 3 today at the allergy doctor's, and we're hoping next week she'll be declared dairy allergy-free. (She passed her blood test and skin test, and next week is a "food challenge" in the doctor's office in which they feed her milk and observe her for any reaction.) I'm already dreaming of a big pizza and ice cream party next weekend. Though I am trying not to get my hopes *too* much. (And realistically, I know even if she can eat dairy, I'm going to be extremely cautious and all Mama Bear on her until I'm completely, totally sure she doesn't react.)

For anyone with kids with food allergies, or if you just want to learn more about them, there are a few resources I've found invaluable:

New England Chapter of the Asthma and Allergies Foundation -- Among its benefits, it hosts educational seminars in the Greater Boston area.

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network -- Has a wealth of information about food allergies and it sends out recall alerts about foods that have been recalled for being improperly labelled and not containing allergy information. (I get a surprising number of these notifications. Very scary that so much food is mislabelled.)

Allergy Eats -- Contains an online database of restaurants with user ratings on allergy awareness and dining experience. There's also an Allergy Eats blog and Facebook page with lots of great information on dining out with food allergies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stuck in a Dinner Rut...

As I was checking out at the grocery store today, buying hamburger and pasta for American Chop Suey tonight, I realized... I'm stuck in a dinner rut.

Don't get me wrong, I love American Chop Suey. But isn't it just a little... boring?

When we joined a CSA earlier this year it helped make our meals a little more interesting. 10 varieties of squash, collard greens, kale, beets. I got kind of inventive. But the CSA season is winding down, the vegetables we're getting are kind of bottom of the barrel in terms of quality, and I'm just sick of some of the same vegetables week in and week out.

I'm not quite like my mom yet -- every day of the week for her is associated with a different meat she always has for dinner. Monday is hamburger and pasta night, Tuesday chicken, Wednesday hamburger again, Thursday chicken again. And so on. But I do find myself getting into that routine with meals where I make the same things over and over again.

So - any ideas to help me get out of this rut? I'm all ears. I only have a few guidelines:
1) I don't really do dinner out of a box. I mean, I'll cook pasta and rice from a box, but I gave up Hamburger Helper years ago. Don't want to go down that road again. I'd like more "simple, fresh." I will do frozen vegetables.
2) My younger daughter has a dairy allergy. I can make some easy substitutions like soy milk for milk or soy butter for butter, and even some veggie cheese. But I try to stay away from overly cheesy dishes or anything made with milk-based soups.
3) I own a Crock-Pot. And I love using it! Any ideas beyond pot roast would be awesome.

Have at it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Paparazzi ... and Me

No, I'm not famous. The paparazzi don't stalk me or my kids at preschool like they do to Nicole Richie's kids. But I watched the HBO documentary "Teenage Paparazzo" this week and it got me thinking about me and my kids.

One thing that was mentioned in the documentary is that people these days feel unnaturally close to many celebrities (they called it a something relationship, but I forget what that "something" is, and I deleted the movie from my DVR). But basically, so many people are obsessed with Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, and it's because they don't have many other substantive relationships in their lives. Our lives are much more solitary. Kids don't gather at each other's homes after school or ride bikes down the street. It's a much different kind of childhood these days.

Anyway, it got me thinking. I need to do more activities with my kids. But not the kind of structured activities that leads to over-scheduled kids. We need to go to the library more. The playground more. Have friends over to the house more. It made me realize that we are a little too solitary. And while I love just us and our family life, it really is good to have other important relationships. Which reminds me - I really should knock on my new neighbor's door and introduce myself.

A couple other random comments about the documentary:
1) The whole movie is centered around a 13-year-old kid who is a member of the paparazzi. I understand it's important to give your kids freedom and let them pursue their interests, but quite bizarre that this kid was regularly out until 3:00 a.m. snapping pictures.
2) I've grown a little sick of the whole celebrity culture. I mean, I used to be People Magazine's #1 subscriber, but I cancelled my subscription after the magazine ran a photo of Jennifer Garner carrying her daughter Violet out of preschool. Violet is maybe a year older than my older daughter, and she looked completely terrified surrounded by a swarm of photographers. That was the line for me. Don't follow a kid to preschool -- let the family live some type of regular life. So I really applaud Nicole Richie for what she's doing to keep the paparazzi away from her kids at school. OK, off soapbox now. :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking on Gender Roles

We're not big into traditional gender roles in our household. My 4-year-old daughter went to bed tonight in her Buzz Lightyear pajamas, she loves baseball, soccer, the colors blue and orange, the movie Cars, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. Oh, and she calls herself "Ben." Don't get me wrong, though -- she's not all "boy" in a girl's body. She also likes princesses (though isn't obsessed with them), Dora, hearts and a good cuddle.

My 2-year-old daughter likes everything her sister likes. And she goes by "Bill."

I've tried hard to let my daughters explore their interests rather than pushing them to like what I think (or what society thinks) they should. And the result? Two sweet, happy children.

As my girls get older, I'd like to continue to let them pursue their goals and interests without feeling limited in any way. Which is why I feel daunted by any discussions about gender roles.

My older daughter's observations started innocently enough: boys don't wear earrings, girls have long hair. She got really confused last year by Casey on American Idol when he wore his hair down. Then the observations got a little harder for me to address: only boys play baseball. I struggled with that one, because she's a baseball-loving kid and underneath that comment I heard the silent, "But I like playing baseball." I told her she could do whatever she wanted and I vowed to sign her up for T-ball if she wants to do it in a couple of years.

But this week I felt really challenged. We have a couple of baptisms coming up in our family and my daughter asked me, "Why do only boys get to pour water on babies' heads?" (We're Catholic.) I asked her how she knew that and she said, "I just do. I know a lot of stuff."

I tried to explain to her as best I could that in our church only boys are priests while in other churches girls can be too. But I felt disingenuous saying it, because it goes against what I believe: that my girls should be able to pursue whatever dreams they have in life. Having said that, though, I realize that in real life, my girls will face challenges because of their gender.

So what I'm struggling with is: how do I communicate all this to my children? Should I? Do I prepare them optimistically with the "you can do anything" or be a little more realistic with "well, you can play T-ball now, but when you get to high school, people are going to want to move you over to softball."

I don't know the answers to these questions. But I struggle with them. And I'm trying to do my best.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Experiment with Vegetables

This summer my family decided to try something different. We were going to eat vegetables. Well, not that we *didn't* eat vegetables before, but they were more of the frozen peas and canned corn variety. No, we were going to eat fresh vegetables. And a lot of them.

We decided to join a CSA, which I was a little unsure of at first, but for the most part, it's been a really positive experience for us. For one, we got to eat a lot of veggies we've never really tried before. (Like radishes, which I've had in salads and stuff before, but have never actually purchased myself.) And I know this sounds kind of "duh," but we got to find out how much better fresh food tastes. Like freshly picked lettuce? So much better than the bagged Fresh Express stuff.

The CSA also offered a great educational experience for my girls, who got to learn all about where their food comes from and it got them excited to try some of the veggies. (Which has been very challenging for my 4-year-old lately.)

The only drawback to the CSA is that you're stuck with whatever veggies they offer for that week, and some of the vegetables I would not buy as often as we get them. I mean, kale is good and all, but we've gotten it for 18 straight weeks. Enough already.

A couple of my favorite veggie creations this season:
*Chicken stir-fry with eggplant (best use of eggplant, I think)
*Sauteed radishes (with the greens)
*Tomato, basil and mozzarella