Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving and Control and Mashed Potatoes and The Talk

We are heading back up to Massachusetts on Tuesday night for an extended stay, and, just to beat a dead horse here, I am so excited. The excitement/thrill of it all is not fading at all. And this time I am not just excited to be escaping the city for the country, but also because this means for the first time ever, Nicole and I will have Thanksgiving alone. Normally, we are the one trotting off to everyone else’s home for this (and every) holiday. And not just holidays: We usually are the family members that go to other’s homes, period. We established this paradigm way back, and it is one that is hard to shake.

I said that once we had kids, we would stay put more often. So we had kids (nothing like reducing years of infertility down to a few words; like it was soooo easy) and we still are all over the place. Yes, the holidays are about family and spending time together but I have to remember that we four are a family, too. And I don’t want my kids to remember holidays as blurry images they see from the back seat of a car as we drive from family home to family home. I don’t want them to rush through Christmas morning so we can get in the car and beat traffic. Maybe I am saying all this to assuage my guilt, but, I must say, I am looking forward to our first Thanksgiving alone.

Thanksgiving dinner will be a semi-simple affair: Turkey, stuffing; mashed potatoes with crispy shallots and a roasted fall vegetable medley. I’m thinking a few well made dishes will trump an abundance of so-so dishes. The thing is, I am really good at making so-so dishes. I would never say I am a great cook, but I would say I do make a few great dishes and then mostly a range of solidly just fine, it’ll do dishes. And I am really good at ordering pizza. I am trying to have patience and concentrate on making the best mashed potatoes I have ever made and an extra flavorful fall veggie medley that is appropriately tender and crisp. Nicole is in charge of the turkey and stuffing because I can’t handle stuffing a raw turkey. Nor can I handle reaching into the birds cavity and pulling out that bag of…what is IN that bag anyway?

I wonder what the girls will eat. I have tried to get them to eat mashed potatoes about 10 times and they turn their little noses up at it. Over the summer, my mom made them mashed potatoes from a box and of course they LOVED them. How oh how could they love that crap? How do they have a taste for synthetic food at such a young age? Fresh, homemade mashed potatoes eschewed for flakes of potato product mixed with water and milk? I don’t understand the toddler palette at all. I just can’t make those fake potatoes for them and will keep trying to get them to eat the real deal.

Speaking of food, Nicole had The Talk with me. The Talk about weight loss and unhealthy attitudes and all that. Two summers ago, I was running a lot and eating too little (it was summer, and hot and humid) and just on the go with the girls and I lost a little too much weight. Once I saw femur bones and ribs I cut back a little on the runs and ate a little more and tried to find a happy medium. Of course, this lead to….massive weight gain. No one does yo-yo dieting like I do. I am the Oprah of my social circle in that way (without the billions). My yo-yo range is about 20/25 pounds, and I gain and lose it almost yearly. When am I going to stop that? Good question. I know it is not healthy. I am not sure what exactly yo-yoing does in the long run, but I am sure it isn’t good. People will talk about how it destroys your metabolism, but mine seems just fine. My body responds to exercise really well, and it always has. It also responds to a lack of exercise really well, and it always has. Lesson here: If I exercise regularly, I lose weight. And if I don’t, I gain weight. Simple. So I usually exercise. What helps is that I really do love to exercise: It is my hour of alone time every day. I really look forward to it.

When it comes to food, my biggest issue is I don’t know moderation. Actually, that is my biggest issue in life. I do everything full throttle. I don’t overdo it on most food, but, like most people, I have some trigger foods. Pretzels are top on that list, followed by things like Samoa cookies or Gummi bears. All those things I can eat in their entirety in one or two sittings. And then I will punish myself for eating so much but cutting waaay back on what I eat the next day; in part organically (I am stuffed) and in part to create a calorie deficit. This creates an awful cycle. So because I don’t know moderation, I cut out. It is easier to say no to pretzels than to say, ok, I’ll have a few. And that sucks. I need to master control and balance and moderation, and quick, before my girls get any older.

While I am about ten pounds more than I was at my crazy summer bone-showing low, Nicole pointed out that she could feel a rib or two. So I have been put on notice. My attitude toward exercise is healthy, but I do suffer from body image issues, which never seems to alter no matter what end of the weight spectrum I am on. Where does this come from, this bad body image? I need to figure that out too, so I can make sure my girls don’t go through all this BS.

On a random note, I asked Nicole to pick up some strawberries on her way home from work, and she came home with two pounds of strawberries; two pints of white raspberries; a pint of blueberries and a pint of blackberries. Talk about lack of moderation! Looks like I will be packing fresh fruit to take up to Massachusetts.

Pictured above: Toddler pile up. I was trying to read on the floor, but me in this position usually attracts company. And trees glorious trees, in our backyard! And the girls running around the house. In Christmas sweaters that are too big but I don’t care. They are so cute (The girls and the sweaters).

Friday, November 20, 2009

That Peaceful, Easy Feeling

So my head, my brain, all my extra thoughts are centered around our new house. This knotty-pine covered, red-tin roofed home in the woods that I can’t stop thinking about it. This house has been a miracle. Its very presence has injected something into me that I can’t quite explain. Part hope; part direction; part easy, peaceful feeling. It just makes me feel calmer all around. And Nicole, too. I don’t think we realized how badly we both needed this/wanted this until it actually happened. It all still feels like a dream.

We are heading up today for the weekend, coming back Sunday, and then we will be back up on Tuesday night for the rest of Thanksgiving week. This will be our first Thanksgiving alone. Usually Nicole and I are the ones traveling to other’s houses for this holiday, so I am really excited to just stay put and take up this cooking challenge on our own. We had to buy a roasting pan and one of those turkey basters, and we still need various other Thanksgiving accoutrements that you don’t really think of unless you are the one doing the cooking. Nicole is in charge of the turkey and maybe stuffing, and I will make the mashed potatoes with crispy shallots and harvest vegetable dish. Oh, and apple pie. I really want to keep it simple, but that is getting harder, because Nicole keeps adding must-have items to the menu.

On this weekend’s agenda: Christmas card pictures. I am bracing myself for the nightmare of trying to photograph toddlers in dress attire and in happy dispositions. I am looking for nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Anything that shows them look in the vague direction of the camera with even a hint of a smile will qualify. We are doing it ourselves: I have a tripod and a shutter remote and a control-freak streak that won’t allow me to ever have anyone else do it for us. And my dad got me a new camera for [early] Christmas. It is amazing! It is a big step up from my last Canon SLR, with a much better ISO range and a faster processor. It is sort of a bridge camera for someone who is below professional photographer, but above casual photographer. It is definitely a camera I can grow with. But is it a camera I can get a Christmas card picture with, that remains to be seen.

The girls have their two-and-a-half year appointment in about two weeks, so cue the “where has the time gone?” laments. I need to talk to the doctor about Avery’s eating. Or lack thereof. She is beyond picky and beyond grazer. She eats almost nothing. I have a feeling this is because I allow her to have unlimited access to milk, with chocolate in it. The girls will polish off a half gallon a day. But Madeline eats her fruits and veggies and all three meals, along with her milk. Avery, not at all. I am not even kidding when I say that today all she has “eaten” is the ice off of frozen grapes: She sucks on the frozen grapes until they are soft, then spits them out, and pops a fresh frozen one in her mouth. Her old standbys (pizza, yogurt, wagon wheel pasta, etc.) no longer float her boat. She should be emaciated, but she’s still pleasantly plump, and that is a little reassuring. The milk, I suspect, keeps her caloric intake up. But I have no idea how we can get her to eat more. I know what the doctor will say: Cut back on milk and she will start eating more. But I am dreading doing this, because Avery loves, loves, loves her chocolate milk, and since she eats nothing, I want her to at let have that. And thus the cycle continues.

Speaking of picky, I am having getting a liiiiitle nervous about my own eating habits. I eat no meat but chicken and turkey (on a rare occasion). But lately I have been not really feeling the chicken at all. In any form. Nicole thinks I will be a complete vegetarian by next year. That is not the direction I want to go in, for certain. I know I can find protein in other places, but my palate is pretty limited to begin with, so cutting out chicken is cutting out a whole chunk of my diet. I have no idea why my palate is changing as I get older, but at this rate, I will be eating nothing but pretzels and caramel cone ice cream in a decade or so. Right now, I have some new food obsessions to take the place of chicken: I have hummus sandwiches every day for lunch with my roasted fall veggies (parsnips and carrots and turnips and sweet potatoes and squash). And I eat two or three apples a day. I love the fall selections! (gala and pink lady and honeycrisps and macintosh). And one thing I will never tire of is pizza. My love of pizza is singularly the reason why I could never be vegan, even if I wanted to. I eat it all the time.

Pictured above: Avery’s tummy certainly doesn’t look empty, but, alas, it usually is. And Nicole, sitting on the floor, since our furniture hasn’t arrived yet. It will take six weeks for the furniture to get to us! And here I thought it could be overnighted. But we aren’t letting a lack of furniture (or the rain behind Nicole) rain on our parade. And, finally, my beautiful niece and nephew.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Living My Way Into The Answers = Not Easy

On Friday, I was piggybacked across the threshold. Well, more like piggybacked halfway across the doorway and then unceremoniously dropped, since that was as far as Nicole could carry me. But I’ll take it. (I contend that it is Nicole’s lack of upper body strength and not my size that made this task difficult.) So that means we officially officially officially closed on the house in Northampton. It turns out short sales make for nightmare closings, but it was worth it, and we are happy beyond belief. I could not stop smiling all weekend. And I am still on that high. I feel so lucky and I am not taking a single moment of this for granted.

What a lifestyle change from NYC. There was moonlight on my pillows at night. Moonlight! It is so quiet in the woods; the kind of quiet you can hear. I heard my favorite sound in the world: The sound of wind rustling leaves. I watched the sunrise parfait of warm colors through our bathroom window. I even had to pull over one morning to watch the sun rise as I drove into town to try out a gym. We watched our girls learn how to walk down the steep driveway and play in a pile of leaves and play with rocks and leaves and twigs. And there were so many stars at night. This sort of nature I’m sure many people already experience and appreciate on a daily basis. But for me, after living in the city for twenty years, and for Nicole and the girls, it is amazing and restorative.

We spent the weekend nesting, which for Nicole and I translates into two very different sets of activities. For Nicole, that meant buying and installing filters for furnaces and changing deadbolts and meeting with the handyman and hooking up the wireless. For me it meant cleaning every single surface and finding a place to put the snowmen mugs and organizing the pantry. Trips to Home Depot for her and trips to Target and the food store for me. It works out well for us because everything gets done, and we are both content with our allotted chores. We work together very well like that. A bed, stove and fridge were delivered (the previous owner took every appliance and almost every light fixture with her), which makes life a little more comfortable. But we are sitting on the floor until we get furniture delivered.

This house really was fate for us. I think I wrote about this before, but we looked at it when it was on sale many years ago. I remember walking around hunched over in pain: I was pregnant but it was ectopic, which I didn’t know yet. We loved the house, and didn’t make the jump, for several reasons. Nicole continued to get weekly emails from the real estate agent and, about four years later (which was two months ago), the house pops up for sale again. Nicole took off the next day from work and called our mortgage broker and drove up and made an offer. The offer was accepted the next day, and here we are. It all happened very fast and yet very slowly, if you consider the first time we saw this house. It was fate.

On the drive home, I was thinking about this: Obviously the universe wanted us to wait a little longer for this house, and I wonder why. I think there is a lesson of patience in here somewhere. Day after day, patience is a trait I am trying to learn. I have little moments of impatience (why is the pizza delivery taking so long?) and big moments of impatience (the TTC years come to mind). I am not good at detail work because of this impatience affliction. And my worst Mommy moments can be attributed to this negative quality.

But I am trying, I really am. I even have this amazing Rilke quote printed out and framed to remind me:

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves ...
Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer."

Sometimes I don't even have the patience to read the whole quote! My lack of patience, and its partner in crime, my oh-so-controlling ways, undermine me at every step. I want to know every answer; I want to know what happens next; I want to know my future and my purpose and my life story. I read literary criticism sometimes before I read the book. I read spoilers before I watch the latest episode of Mad Men. This house (and my children and the presence of Nicole in my life…) reminds me that some things are worth the wait and sometimes things happen (people happen, events happen, jobs happen, relationships happen, life happens) in unexpected ways and in entirely unexpected timeframes. There is a bigger plan out there, of this I am now sure, and that is giving me comfort for a change.

I am trying to enjoy this rush because I know that life can quickly and easily take a turn for the worse. Life has certainly not always been easy or happy for me. But, as I have said before, this is how I know my life is on the right path: Each year is better than the last. 2007 was a great year, with the girls being born. The highlight of 2008 was getting married, officially, in Massachusetts. And now this. Right now, I just feel so lucky and happy and excited, and I am going to try to savor it and surf this high as long as I can.

Also, on a food note, I had the best slice of pizza this weekend: Asiago almond pesto with butternut squash, caramelized red onions and sage.

Pictured above, Nicole and the girls on closing day: Nicole is slightly stunned/subdued and the girls ran around in circles. And Avery in moose feetsy pajamas! She loves them and insisted on wearing them for nap time as well!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Closing: The Sequel

So that closing last week was apparently just a dress rehearsal. Nicole took off from work, drove up there and signed all the papers. She then drove to the new house and dropped off a carload of our things. The next day, as we were basking in the afterglow and enjoying the end of paperwork and planning our first weekend up there, we find out that the bank that owns the house didn’t process some piece of paperwork properly (the pesky title), so we aren’t technically the owners. Minor detail. Basically it is just a red-tape hassle that involves us returning to Northampton this Friday to resign the papers. And then, it will officially be official, or so they say. But, on an exciting note, we will be spending our first weekend there. This should be interesting, as we need to arrange the delivery of beds, fridges and stoves. It could also be an indoor camping adventure.

Halloween is barely in the rear view, and we are already on to the next holiday. I already heard a Christmas song on TV and the aisles of the drug stores re cluttered with holiday lights and ornaments and red and green versions of candy. But I’m still mentally in a fall place. We went to Halloween party at a friend’s house, but no trick-or-treating for us. The girls don’t know what candy is, and I would like to keep it that way for another year or so. Besides, they wouldn’t even wear their costumes. I think they are too young to get it, so while I am excited to share these milestones with them, I am also content to hold off on another year or two. My friend Jen and I were talking about what to do with all the extra candy the accumulates from leftover treats or from the kids’ haul. It seems wasteful to throw it away, but it also seems wrong to let kids eat 15 tons of candy, even over an extended period of time. And then, this morning at the gym, I saw some news story about donating your extra Halloween candy to the overseas soldiers. What a great idea.

Random note: Another reason why I love my new gym: They give out free fruit. How great is that?

In a move I may regret in the near future, I entered the 2010 NYC marathon lottery. Yep, watching it on Sunday got me all worked up and filled with false confidence. For a mere eleven dollars I have a slightly higher chances than a snowball’s in hell of being allowed to run 26.2 miles next November. Yes, I am insane. I don’t even like to drive 26 miles, let alone run it. Now let’s be clear: I am in no way nearly ready to run that far or for that long at this present juncture. But given almost a year, I think I may be able to get to that point. I have a feeling my run would include quite a few walk breaks. And a sub-four hour time seems waaaay outside of the realm of possibility. But we’ll see. It is up to fate. If my number is selected in mid-march, I will have a lot of work to do. I like that my November running fate is a little bit of a mystery.

The girls are running me ragged. They have so much energy and are busy busy busy. They have a new habit: They like to go into their room, close their door and play together. If I try to come in, they yell “GO MOMMA.” It is endearing now, but won’t be endearing when they are around 14. But for now, I enjoy the fact that they entertain each other and I can get something done. It’s the little things and little moments.

Pictured above: My lunch, which made me laugh because it sorta looks like a face. You can tell I spend a lot of time alone with children. It is hummus on pita with spinach and then roasted fall veggies (squash, carrots, turnips, parsnips and shallots). I have been on a huge hummus kick. And spinach too. Also pictured, Avery leaving her tag on a friend’s fence. Also finally, if worse comes to worse, this will be out Christmas card picture. Seriously, I hope we can do better than this. Plus, I should maybe color my hair before the next picture. I have three-inch roots.