Friday, July 31, 2009

Shred THIS.


Lately, since the end of the 30 Day Shred on Monday to be specific, I've been sitting around eating a lot of chocolate and enjoying the luxury of not being drenched in a ridiculous amount of sweat every single day. It's nice. You know you've been exercising too hard when your regular five-to-six-mile run--which used to kick your ass each and every time--feels like a cake-walk, because you're not also doing the goddamn Shred on the very same day. Ah, the living is easy, post-Jillian.

Don't worry; I'm not throwing all my hard work away. I didn't quit the Shred forever. But I did take a wee break, and now I'm going to resume those hard-core workouts on non-running days only. You know, so as not to risk death by plank-jacks again. One 30-Day challenge was enough for me. I came, I conquered, I set down my hand weights and picked up a bowl of peanut-butter-and-chocolate ice cream.

My new challenge is even tougher than anything Miss Jillian could throw my way, though. I'm trying really hard to be more patient with my daughters. So far it's not working at all, but I'm trying. Patience is not my strong suit, and let me tell you something, people--if there is one age range that will drag you down into the sucking mud of parenting, trying your patience beyond your wildest imaginings, it is ages two to five. Coincidentally, these are the ages of my own two children. (OK, so I've heard adolescence can kick two-to-five-years-old to the ground. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about that yet.)

But the thing about patience is, it really does make you a better person, and a better parent. But it's a skill that does not come naturally to many of us, and it's an attribute that is most needed in the very moments that make it hardest to access. I'm down in the dirt, wrestling with my (im)patience these days, snapping at the meanderings of toddlers with shoes on the wrong feet, at the clock ticking away as each tiny task turns into a marathon of fussy uncooperativeness. I'm not a patient person. I'm struggling mightily here.

It makes the 30 Day Shred seem easy, fellow parents. You know exactly what I mean.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Pottery Barn Kids

Dear Pottery Barn Kids,

I know you have to do business. I know you're not trying to be distressing. But you're ruining everything, did you know that? I was all happy and cheery, having had a lovely summer day with my two young daughters, NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT SEPTEMBER. And then you had to send me your back-to-school catalog yesterday, the one full of backpacks and personalized lunch bags and thermoses, with child-sized desks and art tables and tips for making "study spaces" out of unused corners of one's house (aside: do other people actually have such spaces in their houses?). And it hit me: my first baby is heading off into the world of elementary school this year--a school I know very little about, when it comes down to it--and I'm not ready.

It's not as if it's a surprise. I've had at least five months--since the parents' kindergarten info meeting last March--to think about sending my firstborn off to kindergarten. But it all seemed like such a long way off, like something I knew, in theory, would occur, but that I couldn't quite fit into my mind's eye just yet. A puzzle piece without the context of the rest of the puzzle. Elementary school? My child? Really?

Honestly, Pottery Barn Kids, I'm not ready to think about backpacks and lunchbags and personalized water bottles just yet. I've got five and a half weeks left of summer: five and a half weeks with my girl to myself, before I set her out on that path of "real" school, that road involving daily hours away from me, school arrivals and departures on her own rather than with me by her side, experiences outside the realm of the past five at-home years with me and her baby sister.

You can keep your homework desks and craft tables for now. I know she won't be 100% mine forever, but for the next five and a half weeks we're busy with bubbles and sand toys and the splash pool. I'm not ready yet for more than that, and your catalog is making me sad. Back-to-school can wait just a little bit longer, can't it? Thank you.

Sincerely,
Shannon

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

That Was an Awful Lot of Days.

Today is the first day in a full month that I will not be exercising. Hallelujah!

Yes, I completed the 30 Day Shred last night, and I didn't miss a day--which is a bit of a miracle, honestly. Some days the only time I had to work out was at 9:30 at night--and believe me, doing squat-jumps and traveling push-ups is not normally my activity of choice at 9:30 p.m. But I love setting challenging goals for myself and then meeting them come hell or high water. I'm pretty good at it.

So, now that the 30-day challenge is over (I plan to continue the workout--believe me, there is much progress still to be made--just not every day anymore), what's my ultimate take on it? Well, the 30 Day Shred was hard--really hard. Going into it, I was in good shape--running five to six miles, three times a week, and doing strength-training workouts twice a week--and yet, even at the easiest level during the first 10 days of the challenge, it totally kicked my ass. And when I moved up to Level 2 and then Level 3, I honestly wondered whether it was even possible to do some of the exercises. But each time I improved considerably over the ten days at each level. It was amazing to see such substantial and quick progress.

In the end, from day one to day 30, I lost a total of about three pounds and three and a half inches. This surprised me a little, because given how hard I was working (read: practically dying), I figured I'd pretty effortlessly drop an easy five pounds. But then I figured that, in order to lose weight, you're probably supposed to, like, alter your diet in some way. (Boring.) Anyway, since I lost a few inches and my arms, shoulders, back, and abs are much more toned than they were a month ago--not to mention the fact that I can now successfully complete even the hardest parts of the DVD--clearly I got results from pushing myself through all 30 days. I feel tighter and stronger in every way.

The hardest thing about doing the 30 Day Shred was the overarching tiredness I felt all month long. It wasn't the muscle fatigue that bothered me; it was the fact that much of the time I seriously craved a nap. It just wiped me out, which was a little crazy given the high-energy requirements of my day-to-day job. Let's just say being a stay-at-home mom to two children under six is not exactly conducive to doing a whole lot of resting. Also, as hard as I tried, I simply COULD NOT keep up my normal running mileage during the Shred. I wanted to, since the Shred is more strength work than cardio, but even at only 20 minutes per workout, the Shred is so hard my body just couldn't run all that much in addition. I missed my running, but it wasn't possible.

And now I am all done talking about Jillian Michaels and her crazy 30 Day Shred. If only I were done talking about whether or not to send Genevieve to preschool. Right?

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Brain is More Exhausted Than my 30-Day-Shredded Body. Which is Saying a Lot.

Over the weekend Christopher took the girls to the park, to the pool, and on bike rides, so that I could play retro mom and do things like make homemade chocolate-zucchini bread and focaccia, blanch and freeze several pounds of newly-picked green beans, create several large bouquets of fresh flowers from blooms we cut ourselves at our CSA farm on Saturday, roast farm-share vegetables, and paint my childhood kid-sized dresser to put in the nursery once we get rid of our now-obsolete changing table.

But don't misunderstand! My weekend was jam-packed with chores and household tasks, tiring and busy, but it was productive, and I love getting tons of things done and feeling good about it afterward; I love sitting in bed late at night reading the latest New Yorker and feeling exhausted in a good way. (A cool, fragrant summer breeze wafting in from the frog-peeping dark does not hurt, either.) (And please note: there is a BIG difference between having long stretches of kid-free time on the weekend to get necessary household tasks completed and trying to get these same kinds of things done on weekdays with a toddler at your knee and a preschooler talking nonstop.)

I've been thinking about my busy-busy post the other day, and about how, though I struggle with finding time to relax and take time "off" (is there such a thing, when you're a full-time mom? not really), for the most part keeping a clean, smoothly-running household and cooking wholesome meals from scratch for my family every day is what makes me happy. If I let things go like some of you encourage, in order to spend more time relaxing and enjoying the moment, I would end up living in a dirty house, which I personally find very depressing, so it's really not a win for me. YOU might not find that depressing at all, but I do, and if I'm not cooking and cleaning, believe me, no one else is doing it for me. (Therefore: nonstop crazy housewifery.) Which is why I'm done apologizing for my high worker productivity. I'm not promising I'm done complaining about it now and then, though. Because nothing's black or white in this life, is it?

Hey! Speaking of things not being black or white, I also spent the entire weekend obsessing over Genevieve and preschool! I know! Can you believe it? I'm STILL agonizing about Genevieve and preschool? With only three weeks left until the deadline for committing for the year?

Well, yes. On Friday at the city pool she cried when I tried to leave her with her sister and some friends for half a minute so I could use the restroom, and I just thought, Is this barnacle baby really ready to leave me at the door and embark on the path of nursery school by herself, she with next to no playgroup, toddler class, or babysitter experience?

Can I imagine her doing things like, say, sitting and smiling for a school-portrait photographer without bursting into intimidated tears, or uttering a sentence anyone else but Julia and I can understand, with her round toddler speech and baby words?

Wouldn't she much prefer an extra year at home with me, taking toddler-parent ECFE classes together and maybe doing a regular playgroup to get her more used to socializing?

And yet, my working-mom friends with kids in daycare look at me and go, What? You're worried about a measly five hours per week of nursery school at a place she knows and loves? That's nothing! Do it!

And yet, I think most moms with children with birthdays as late as Genevieve's tend to hold them back a year, and wait. And I wonder if being a good mom means keeping my baby home with me an extra year. And I sort of want to, because she IS my baby.

And yet, if you ask Genevieve, she says, "Weschool! When I turn wee!" (Then later she tells me she wants me to stay with her at preschool rather than drop her off and go.)

ARE YOU SICK TO DEATH OF THE DEBATE YET? Imagine how I feel.

Oh! People! In other news, I only have one day left of the 30 Day Shred! Today is my 30th consecutive day, and I did not die, injure myself, or hunt down Jillian Michaels with the notion of exacting revenge. However, I think after tonight I may need to take a small break during which I do nothing but eat Dairy Queen Blizzards. It's just a thought.

Friday, July 24, 2009

High Worker Productivity

Today:

Took two begging children to toddler time at the city pool for an hour and a half, even though it was only 67 degrees outside and had thunderstormed shortly before. Came home and vacuumed the entire house. Changed the sheets on all the beds; did four loads of laundry. Fed the children lunch; made a vegetable tart for dinner later. While it baked, did the 30 Day Shred. Took the zucchini bread out of the freezer to thaw so we can have it for dinner with the tart. Swept the floor, watered the plants, and emptied the trash.

This is how I earn my SAHM stripes. Also how I stay thin. I'm ready for a coffee break now, though.

I think the hardest part about being a stay-at-home mom is that there is no discrete ending to the work involved. There's literally never a day when the clock strikes a particular hour and you say, "Well, I completed every relevant task today; I can go off the clock now and relax 100%, knowing that there is no other work hanging over me that I could otherwise be doing." I remember my other jobs, when on a Friday afternoon I could legitimately look around my office and determine that my work there was done; I could go home and do nothing, if I wanted, because there was no work left to do right then.

When you're a SAHM, there's always more work. I mean, beyond the obvious 24/7 of parenting, the other tasks of housewifery never end: the laundry, the cleaning, the preparing of meals and snacks for small bodies. It's a real challenge, finding a way to take time off from "work" when this is your full-time work.

Do you know what I mean, fellow SAHMs?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Past/The Future

Lately, as I sit in the hallway outside the nursery door at night doing the bedtime vigil, waiting for Genevieve to fall asleep so I can leave the cracked-open doorway and get on with my off-duty mama life, I've been reading the archives of my favorite mommy-blog, Friday Playdate. I've read Susan's stuff for years now, but not from her very first post; I can't recall when it was that I first discovered her site--maybe in 2006 sometime? But the other day I arbitrarily clicked on her entries from four years ago, trying to find something new to read during my endless hallway night-watch, and it has all got me thinking.

You see, Susan has children exactly four years older than mine; her older son, Henry, even shares my older daughter's birthday, only he just turned nine when Julia turned five. And Susan's younger son Charlie's birthday was last week--almost exactly a month before Genevieve's--only he just turned seven, whereas Vivi will turn three in a few weeks. It seems uncanny to me that I randomly clicked on some Friday Playdate entries from four years ago, only to find myself immersed in the then-Susan living my current life (only with boys, not girls). And still every day I read Susan's real-time Friday Playdate entries, and here she is four years later, with her nine- and seven-year-olds. Just how my life will be in four more years. The mind boggles. Or maybe yours doesn't. But mine surely does.

Because, you see, it's like a voice from the future, from my OWN future, telling me things will get easier, things will work out, I won't always and forever be sitting on the floor near Vivi's crib so she won't cry at night, I won't eternally be carrying and holding preschoolers in the swimming pool so they won't cry or drown. They'll actually be able to PLAY IN THE POOL BY THEMSELVES WHILE I READ A MAGAZINE FROM A DECK CHAIR. Yes, yes they will. I know this, because Susan told me so.

It's enormously comforting, and also bittersweet, to have the ability to go back and read someone's mothering journal from when her daily stay-at-home-mom life was very much like mine is now--I know it's true, because her kids were the exact ages mine are today--but then also have the fast-forward flash of seeing how mamahood changes in four years' time. In the archives from spring and summer 2005, Susan talks about how harried and tired and frazzled she feels and how crazy-busy her days are. She says she knows she has a great, lucky life--just like I know I have one too--and yet despite her best efforts to be all zen-and-gratitude about her lucky, stay-at-home-mom life, she's still overwhelmed by housework and always exhausted and super-thin ("and not in a good way") and up to her ears in the repetitive drudgery of making snack and wiping bottoms and picking up toys (I'm paraphrasing here). And how she lies awake at night worrying about what will happen when she goes back to work, and what she'll even DO for work. (When you find the answer, let me know, please.) And how she really wants to appreciate every single sweet moment of parenting babies and toddler in this lucky, blessed life--but the truth of it is, half the time she's cranky and frazzled and letting the children watch PBS to get a break from their nonstop needs and then feeling guilty about it. And on and on it goes.

The thing is, Susan of four years ago is describing my life now, and for the past several years. Reading those words is like meeting an old friend anew. Or meeting a new friend but feeling as if you've known her forever. I recognize myself in the 2005 Susan--I swear to God, what keeps me thin is the Having-No-Help-With-the-Children-Ever-Ever-Ever Diet; it's very stressful!--and it's always comforting to hear someone else speak your own truth. The added bonus is that I know--as well as anyone can know someone via a blog--that Susan is just fine. Her boys are four years older; she finds great joy in their big-boy-ness. She assures me there are wonderful things about bigger kids, and that's nice to hear, and see. Apparently things change; certain things get easier. Children become less needy.

The Internet is a wonderful thing sometimes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Weekday Morning

It's a GORGEOUS summer day here, after major, much-needed rains yesterday, and the girls and I went outside this morning for a long, long walk through our neighborhood and ending at the playground. We walked a mile and a half, immersed in air that smelled so strongly of fresh grass, flowers, trees, and earth that it almost didn't seem real. Well, Julia and I walked (a mile and a half on those little shorty newly-five legs! good going, girl!); Genevieve was feeling queenly, and opted for a ride in the front of our double stroller. (Two teddy bears shared the back.)

I have a disproportionate love for that double stroller, and every time I use it now--which isn't all that often anymore--I wonder if it's the last time. Will I even know it when it is? Probably not--like the nursing, you know: one day it's over and you didn't know that last time, the day before, was going to be it for you. I love my stroller because it gives me freedom in my isolated subdivision; it stands for all those baby-toddler days when we hadn't lived here long and I didn't have a car or any way to get anywhere else during many days, but I could throw my babes in the double and hike the inclines around our rich neighborhood and ogle the yards and gardens; I could feed them dry Cheerios to keep them happy for an extra half-mile so I could squeeze in a full workout. I could feel the sun on my face and the watch the crazy-incredible clouds we get here towering up over the farmfields.

Genevieve will be three in less than a month. She's throwing off her babyhood left and right, leaving it in her wake, and she'll be done with the stroller all too soon. We're going to be one of those families selling the stroller, selling the crib! ("One of those families": as if all families don't do that eventually.)

I can't even picture it; truly, truly, I can't.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Cooking: Zucchini Raisin-Bran Bread

I made this zucchini bread recipe over the weekend. I did it alone, while the girls were busy on a bike ride with Christopher, but it would be a great baking activity with small children: lots of easy measuring, dumping and stirring, with delicious results at the end.

My friend Laura requested the recipe, because she'd heard I'd done a fair amount of improvising with the original recipe, which called for copious amounts of oil and white flour, and also some things I did not have on hand (bran, walnuts), and she was curious how it all turned out. Here's what I came up with. Please note: this recipe makes TWO loaves of bread (standard 9 x 5-inch loaf pans). Also, I am determined to reduce the sugar next time I make this recipe, but since I have not yet experimented with that, I'm including here the original sugar amount. Don't have a heart attack--remember, it's for two loaves. But still.

Zucchini Raisin-Bran Bread

Ingredients:
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
4 cups (about 2 large) grated zucchini (no need to peel, remember)
1-1/4 cups white flour
1-1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup raisin-bran cereal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup sliced almonds (or chopped walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, oil, and yogurt, then gently stir in the zucchini.

In another bowl, combine all remaining ingredients. Scrape the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir just until evenly moistened. Divide between prepared pans. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean. (Watch carefully to prevent over-browning!) Let sit in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool. Cool completely before slicing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Fennel Cancels Out the Ice Cream, Right?

We tried fennel for the first time at dinner tonight. Everyone liked it except Genevieve. (No surprises there.) I learned never to put fennel fronds down the garbage disposal. (Sorry, babe!)

In other news, I am on day three of Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred. I know I've said it before, about Levels 1 and 2, but: SERIOUSLY IT IS SO HARD I CANNOT BELIEVE IT. When I tried it for the first time on Saturday afternoon, it decimated my leg muscles so thoroughly that seven hours later, when I attempted my usual weekend run, I was forced to quit halfway through when I began contemplating pausing for a nap on the sidewalk. Just a little nap. A wee rest. Because my legs were unable to carry me any further, and I was just. so. tired.

Today, I decided to run first, and do the Shred afterward. Sure, this meant attempting both workouts in the evening once Christopher was home, but I figured I could do it. And I did, if by "doing it" you mean "did not die." Yes, I ran five miles and then came home and did Level 3 of The Shred. But then I whimpered into a hot bath, downed some ibuprofen, and inhaled two bowls of ice cream plus a cookie, after begging off bedtime duty because I was too tired to hold up a storybook. If you have never heard of exercises like "jump squats," "rock-star jumps," "sumo leaps," or DOING JUMPING JACKS WHILE HOLDING WEIGHTS IN YOUR HANDS, consider yourself lucky.

Seven days to go! Shred on.

Cooking with Greens: Homemade Pizza!

I am in love with my family's membership in a CSA farm this summer; everyone who knows me knows that I'm totally in my element, up to my knees in carrots and beets and fresh basil, feverishly paging through cookbooks and throwing together things like Lemon Couscous Salad with Spinach, Scallions, and Dill; or Broccoli-Cauliflower-Raisin Salad; or Zucchini Bran Bread; or Kale-Potato-White Bean Soup. Sometimes all in one meal. Ha! Not quite, but almost.

But you know, those greens, they are a challenge sometimes. I mean the cooking greens, also known as "braising greens." Not the micro-greens spring mix, for salads--overly plentiful in their own right. At least you know what to do with those: throw them in a big salad bowl and sprinkle with vinaigrette, then eat until your babies say, "Mama, I tiwed of sawad."

No, no, the cooking greens--they are abundant, and less self-explanatory. The Swiss chard, the spinach, the kale; the tops of all those vegetables you never knew, before, that you could also eat the greens of: beets, turnips, kohlrabi. Yikes. What to do with all those greens?

I like to throw them into quiches and vegetable tarts, into soups, and sauteed into pasta dishes. But my friend Connie had a great idea too: saute them and put them on pizza. Yes! Oh, but don't give in to temptation and pick up an expensive pre-made pizza shell from the grocery. Make your own homemade pizza dough. It's economical, it's delicious, and it's oh so easy. You will see.

This recipe is from my friend Laura. It is for one standard-sized pizza pan, and makes a fluffy, bready crust. You could double the recipe and freeze one ball of dough for another time. Your children can help you make this; it's that easy, and they love it. (Mine do it all the time.) Best of all, you can form the crust, and even top the pizza, cover the whole thing, and refrigerate it until you're ready to bake it, and it turns out just fine. I once did this at 6:30 a.m. for a dinner 12 hours later. It worked. So--thanks to Laura--here's the recipe. Mix some up, saute your CSA greens, and make yourself a yummy and super-nutritious homemade veggie pizza. (Obviously, you could also add any other pizza toppings you'd like: onions and olives would be especally good.) Then let me know what you think.

Easy Homemade Pizza Dough

Start with 1 cup flour (white, whole-wheat, or half and half; I always use all wheat). Put in a large bowl and add 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 packet of Quick Yeast (any brand, but make sure it's the quick-rising kind), 1 T. olive oil, and any seasonings you might like (half a teaspoon or so each of oregano, basil, garlic powder, or nothing at all).

Mix the above and then add 1 cup warm water (from the tap is fine). Then add enough WHITE flour--gradually--to make a nice dough. You'll know it when you see it. I add by 1/3 cup at a time, and usually add a total of a cup, I think. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until it's a nice smooth ball.

Shape onto a greased pizza pan. Top with sauce, any toppings you like (greens! greens!), and cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shred Update: Done with Level 2!

Well, people, I've completed Level 2 of the 30 Day Shred, meaning that I've been at this torturous yet surprisingly addictive workout for 20 straight days without dying, seriously injuring myself--as long as you don't count chronic sore muscles as a serious injury--or kicking the TV screen in the general vicinity of Jillian Michaels' face each time she says, "I want you to feel like you are GOING TO DIE." It's a bit of a miracle, really.

Level 2 is incredibly hard, but it got a lot easier over the past 10 days. On my first day at Level 2, there were some moves I couldn't do for more than a few seconds at a time, let alone the entire interval--squat-thrusts and plank jacks come to mind--but by last night, I was able to complete the full workout (with a few beginner modifications). Sure, I still swore under my breath a few times, and I worked up a major sweat, but it was a far cry from the first time when upon completion of the 20 minutes I was forced to lie on my back on the floor, contemplating whether I'd ever be able to move again.

My main experience with Level 2 was extreme tiredness. I don't mean just during the workout, and I don't mean just muscle fatigue. I mean that the 30 Day Shred makes me intensely sleepy by the end of the day, and when I first wake up in the morning. New physical challenges always do this to me--I felt the same way when I trained for a half-marathon in my twenties, and when I worked up to five-mile runs after having my second baby--but you'd never think a measly 20 minutes a day could make a person so exhausted. Except those 20 minutes are harder than any hour-long workout I've ever done. True, maybe part of my fatigue can be attributed to the fact that I spend my days chasing after two small children and cleaning the house rather than sitting at a desk where my muscles would be able to rest and recover, and also because I tried (not always successfully) to maintain my usual running schedule along with my daily Shred workouts, since the Shred is mainly strength-training. Whatever the reason, OH MY GOD THE TIREDNESS.

As for results, having completed 20 days of the 30 Day Shred, I've lost two pounds and a total of three inches. [Edited to add: Please note: that's with no change in my diet whatsoever, which is saying a lot since I happily consume great quantities of ice cream and chocolate on a regular basis. I was/am not trying to lose weight via this workout, nor am I dieting in any way--just looking for a new fitness challenge.] Today I begin Level 3, for the last 10 days of the 30-day challenge. I wonder what new hell is in store for me? I'll let you know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Mid-Point of Summer

OK, so the high temperature around here today is supposed to be 61. And yesterday at 10:30 a.m. I went outside for a walk in the neighborhood with my daughters and we wore FLEECE HOODIES. In JULY, people. During daylight hours. What in the world?

It's been a weird summer so far. Not bad, necessarily, but full of all kinds of new or strange experiences: joining a farm-share for the first time--after three years of waiting--and the way belonging to a CSA forces you into a whole new world of cooking and eating and planning and thinking, which has been a total joy, for me, from the very first week. Taking on the challenge of the 30 Day Shred (more on that later, after I complete Level 2), just because I needed to squelch my exercise boredom and see what I am capable of. Julia's swimming lessons, and their attendant anguish. Unseasonably cool weather more weeks than not, meaning that lately in the mornings we sit near the patio door eating breakfast in a chilly breeze, rather than stepping out onto the patio into balmy sunshine with coffee mugs in hand. Debating the Genevieve-at-preschool question. Nervously eyeing the calendar for how many weeks left before my first babe goes off to kindergarten.

Mostly I'm trying really hard to enjoy this summer, cold weather and all, because it's my last summer before Julia's gone to school every morning, and likely before Genevieve begins her very first steps into any type of school at all. This week was the first time in three full weeks that we've had nothing going on in the a.m.'s (and mostly nothing in the afternoons, either), and it's been a great luxury to wake up slow, sit at the breakfast table with my babes for a very long time, stay in our pj's till late, stick close to home for walks and hopscotch and chalk-drawing. I desperately want every week left in summer to be just like this (with a little more sun and warmth, please), and I want summer to last about twice as long as what's actually left.

Not the Shred, though. I don't want the Shred to last twice as long as normal. I'll tell you all about why tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yeah Well, Your Creamy Flawless Newbie Skin Will Go Out the Window One Day Too, Baby.

Genevieve just told me that she's "a mama now" because she has "a red spot" on her leg (and then pointed out a tiny freckle). Ah, yes. Imperfect skin as the defining feature of mamahood. Really, it's just the defining feature of OLD, but she doesn't know that yet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Kohlrabi was Pretty Good.

I had kind of a crazy day. Between my mystery allergy attack at the neighborhood playground this morning and the urchin neighbor children knocking on my door at dinnertime asking to come in and play because the power was out at their house and they were "hot" (?! I don't even know these children. They're older than my own.) and the crazy toddler tumbling class for which my children were the sole registrants (?!), well.... it was just kind of an odd day. Now it's 9 p.m. and I'm handling the bedtime rebellion, sitting outside the nursery door and contemplating the fact that I have not yet done my 30 Day Shred workout today. People, I am THIS CLOSE to falling off the Shredwagon! It's 9 p.m., people! Who does the Shred at 9 p.m.? Crazy people, that's who. A category which I may or may not fall under; we'll see in about ten minutes when I sneak away from the nursery hallway. Would YOU do walking push-ups at 9:30 p.m.? I just don't know.

I also ate a kohlrabi today, which was another weird thing. It was so odd-looking that my five-year-old shuffled sideways away from it like a crab when I pulled it out of my farm-share bag, grimacing nervously and keeping a watchful gaze on it out of the corner of her eye.

Over at Friday Playdate, Susan's been making cupcakes, and I'm thinking that maybe I need a little more cake and a little less kohlrabi in my life right about now. After I do the Shred, I mean.

'Night, all. Better day tomorrow.

Sweetness


Yesterday Genevieve told me I am her "best mommy" and Julia told me (separately) that she is going to live with me "forever."

Aw. You can almost forgive them the tantrums over bedtimes and the "wrong string cheese" when they act like that.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who's Shredding Who?

Traveling push-ups, squat-thrusts, plank jacks, skater leaps: all reasons why I feel no guilt over real whipped cream.

Day 14 of the 30 Day Shred. What can I say? Level 2 is so hard that I've lost two inches in the four days since moving up from Level 1; I kid you not. SO HARD, PEOPLE.

In other news, my two-year-old had her earliest successful bedtime in months last night, the day she skipped her afternoon nap. I'm sure there is a lesson here, but I'm too distracted by my aching shoulder muscles and limp-as-noodles quads to focus on it right now. What's that you say? Drop Genevieve's nap? And all will be right with bedtime again? It's just that I'll go crazy dealing nonstop with Genevieve from sun-up to sun-down with no breaks in between, but it's a small price to pay? Maybe I'd even get to stop sitting on the floor in the hallway outside the nursery door every evening?

I'll think about it. Maybe she can join me in the Shred workout every afternoon. Afterwards we'll sit around eating whipped cream together.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What I've Learned This Week:

Taking care of a five-year-old and a two-year-old (plus the cat and the house) by yourself for four straight days and nights is perfectly manageable as long as you accept the fact that there's just too much to do for you to be able to get much sleep during that time. If you can get beyond that minor problem, you'll be fine. Soldier on!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

It's a Matter of Pride

Overheard at the end of a long, busy, tiring day:

Julia (sighing): Genevieve, you really wear me out sometimes.
Genevieve (scowling): Not sometimes! A YOT OF DA TIME!

Genevieve Says Daddy's in "Hogan Wings."

The girls and I have been keeping ourselves extremely busy while Daddy's on his trip to Saratoga Springs. (Two days down, two to go.) Of course, there have been swimming lessons every morning, which have continued to coincide with the most unseasonable, cool/cloudy/rainy weather imaginable (uh, who worries about temps in the 50s and 60s for swimming lessons in JULY, people?). Genevieve and I were thrilled when, on Tuesday, Julia had her first tears-free lesson. As my friend Lori said, hooray for small victories! Yesterday she even dared to put her face in the water. Amazing! Too bad it took two weeks.

As for Genevieve, she's a water baby, and was truly sad when I took her to her final (weekly) swimming lesson on Tuesday night. (Yes, we had one kid's swimming lesson in the a.m. and the other's in the evening that day. Have I mentioned how TIRED I am?)

Aside from swimming, or should I say "swimming," we've been house-and-cat-sitting for our best friends, playing at the park, chalk-drawing on the driveway, riding bikes, planting flowers, visiting Julia's old and Genevieve's probable new preschool, cooking and baking (strawberry shortcake! yum!), running errands, going to the library, and enjoying an impromptu brief visit from my mom, who caught a ride down to our town with a friend to keep us company for a day or so. Since she took us out to Wendy's yesterday and bought the girls essentially their first-ever "happy meal"-type lunches, she's pretty much a goddess in their minds.

Today, after Julia's last swimming lesson and my mom's departure, we've got on tap a quick grocery-store run (you know, for the essentials: half-and-half for my coffee, espresso beans, ice cream), a visit to the bookstore to pick up the first volume in the Mercy Watson series for Julia, a bribe promised early last week if she completed her eight swimming lessons, more house-and-cat-sitting, possibly an after-dinner foray downtown to check out the weekly outdoor music at the town square. Of course, somewhere in there I've got to complete my second day of Level 2 of the 30-Day Shred (day 12 altogether), but since yesterday my first Level 2 experience killed me, I don't see how that will be possible. I'm actually dead right now. I'm writing this from my grave, where I am contemplating how much my quadriceps hurt. Here are some thoughts that ran through my head yesterday during my workout:

"How is that even possible."

"Is she kidding me?"

"I'm dying. I'm dead right now."

"No human being can actually do that. This must be computer-generated."

"Even the instructor-helpers are cheating and drenched in sweat!"

"Oh my God, this is CRAZY."

So, there you have it. If I make it through the entire 30 days, it will be a miracle.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Let's Just Assume it's Working its Magic From the Inside Out, Shall We?

OK people, I've completed 10 days of Level 1 of the 30 Day Shred. For 10 straight days, I completed the workout without fail, despite the fact that I suspected Jillian Michaels was out to kill me. And since I've heard Level 2 is much harder than Level 1, I'm anticipating my workout during naptime this afternoon with a fair amount of fear. And by fear I mean abject terror.

All over the Internet, you can find accounts of other people's Shred experiences complete with photos, measurements, and weight stats that attest to major body changes throughout the 30 days. However, my results so far--at least in the way of hard data--have been less than jaw-dropping. For instance, my weight is exactly the same as the day I started. As for measurements, I have lost a grand total of.....one inch. I mean, I'll take it, but....one inch? How anticlimactic. Then again, it's only been 10 days, with 20 more to go (gulp), so perhaps the dramatic results will come later. A late-thirtysomething mama of two can only hope.

However, as I said before, my biceps and shoulders are noticeably more toned, and since the workout became significantly easier from day one to day 10, clearly I've gained substantial fitness in the past 10 days.

I'm on to Level 2, and if it doesn't kill me, I'll let you know just how terrifying it is once I've tried it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Eat Your Greens: More Summer Recipe Blogging!

Over the holiday weekend, I made this fantastic veggie tart recipe passed along by my friend Rob, who got it from the Facebook note of another friend. Do you think this recipe can make it around the world via blogging and Facebook?


The recipe is called Zucchini and Swiss Chard Tart, but I did a fair amount of improvising to use what I had on hand from our farm-share allotment this week: used beet tops and turnip greens instead of Swiss chard; threw in a yellow summer squash for part of the zucchini; used garlic scapes instead of garlic; scallions instead of the onion; fresh snipped basil and parsley instead of the herbs listed. I also used cheddar and feta instead of Gruyere cheese, and a store-bought refrigerated pie-crust instead of making homemade tart pastry (I also don't even own a tart pan, so I used a regular pie plate). Oh, and I didn't go through all the blanching nonsense; I just sauteed the chopped greens along with all the other vegetables and herbs, all at once, and it worked JUST FINE. Much simpler.

The results were fantastic. We inhaled this pie, including the girls, who, remember, are only two and five: not exactly your typical beet-and-turnip-greens-eating ages. But they could not get enough. Talk about a great way to get your toddlers to eat beet greens--or any other cooking greens, for that matter.

Try it! It's truly delish.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Shred Me

So I'm sure many of you--at the very least, Lori--are wondering how I am surviving the 30 Day Shred. Am I right? After all, I've been doing it for a full week now--and yes, I did do it every single day! Ouch!

I'm still on Level 1, the easiest level. And by easiest, I mean "not easy at all, but presumably easier than the other two levels, either of which could probably kill you." Since there are three levels, and the gimmick is to do the workout every day for 30 days, I presume most people do each level for 10 days. That means I have three more days at the first level, and people, I am getting scared. Because I have been poking around online, reading other people's blog accounts of doing the Shred, and the transition to Level 2 seems to be a little, um...how should I put this?...shocking, painful, and horrific. You know: quotes like, "Oh my God, Level 2 is so much harder than Level 1 I thought I would DIE", and "Compared to Level 2, Level 1 is like lying in a hammock sipping lemonade while someone else feeds you warm chocolate chip cookies."

OK, maybe I made up those two quotes, but THAT WAS THE GENERAL IDEA.

All right then, so how is it really? Well, I may be the only person in the history of the world not losing weight on the 30 Day Shred. I seem to be ravenous all the time, and though I'm consciously trying to eat fewer sweets than usual (uh, excepting the giant 4th of July potluck bash we went to yesterday, because hello, ROOT BEER FLOATS. Also S'Mores bars. I'm not a machine!), that generally has meant I'm eating quite a lot of other things, which though they may be healthier for me, are not contributing to any successful weight loss efforts. However, this is fine, because I'm not really looking to lose weight (though those five pounds I regained six months after weaning Miss Crabby-Pants would not be missed, should they make a sudden departure). Also, I swear to God, my arms are noticeably more buff. Yes, after one week. It's ALL THOSE NONSTOP PUSH-UPS, GOOD LORD THE PUSH-UPS. SO INCREDIBLY HARD.

Ahem.

Anyway, it's only been a week, so I'll get back to you later about hard data results in the way of pounds and inches. You want to know, don't you? I know you do.

I will say this. Doing the workout did get substantially easier as the week went on, but that's not to say it's gotten easy. I still have to do most of the "beginner" modifications during the exercises (i.e., I can't do a "real" push-up; I do the knees-down kind), and last night I could not go up or down the stairs without whimpering (ibuprofen is my friend).

Did I mention how terrified I am of Level 2?

Pray for me on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independence From a Full Night's Sleep, Maybe

Ah..... To me, Independence Day really means lying pillow-less and cover-less on the uncomfortable, scratchy-rugged nursery floor next to my toddler's crib at five in the morning after she woke up crying for the fourth time overnight and screamed "YOU SIT IN DA HALLWAY!" at my bleary face approximately one hundred times. And then, an hour later, finally getting up to start the day. And by "start the day" I mean "ingest copious amounts of coffee while cursing the fact that my husband is leaving in a couple of days on a business trip for most of the next week."

And you?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Writing News

So I just found out that an essay I wrote recently--and which, incidentally, was rejected by Babble--has been accepted for an anthology of writing about motherhood. The book is called Moms in the Fast Lane: Reflections on Kids, Career, and the Chaos of Doing it All, and my essay is about the difficulty of balancing adult friendships with the nonstop demands of full-time mothering. I hope it explains just why I never seem to get around to calling my old friends from my earlier, child-free life--no matter how much I still adore them.

Anyway, I don't have any publishing details for the book yet, but I'll keep you all posted. I'm just thrilled to have another book acceptance under my belt. My dream, times two! Lovely. (So there, Babble!)

Thanks for caring, everyone. Truly--you're all the best. Have a great 4th of July weekend.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jillian Michaels Clearly Wants to Kill Me.

My poor little Starfish swimmer can't catch a break. Today, for her third swimming lesson at the outdoor pool, it continues to be cloudy and approximately 60 degrees. Please note that last week the temp was in the 90s all week, and on Friday morning when we went to toddler time at the city pool just for fun (i.e., not for lessons), it was bright and hot by 9 a.m. We got sunburned despite copious SPF 55, and the water felt cool and refreshing. In other words, no one's lips turned blue. Unlike yesterday.

Are you wondering what's up with Genevieve and sleep? There's not much to say. She continues to nap as long as I'll let her each afternoon, sleeping long and hard; I've been trying to be better about waking her up earlier than 4, but it depends on the day, the number of morning tantrums, and the degree of overtiredness present in my household. At night, I continue to do the bedtime routine, and it's generally much later than what was once considered normal in our house: after 8 for sure, and sometimes 8:30 or even later. Still, the girls don't seem to settle down and go to sleep until 9 or 9:30. I can't figure out if this is the curse of summer, or the curse of long naps. At any rate, they play hard all morning and then crash out in the afternoon, and who am I to interfere? Oh yeah--I'm the one sitting in the hallway until 9:15 every night. Sigh.

Well, at least I'm doing the 30 Day Shred; that's something different, right? Sure, this is only my fourth day, and yes, my knees are already questioning the wisdom of this path, but you know me: I like a challenge. Of course, the other night, after I worked out to Hell-On-Wheels-Jillian and her torturous DVD AND ran a few miles, Christopher came downstairs and spied me inhaling an entire giant bowl of homemade buttered popcorn as I protested, "I did the Shred! I ran five miles! I'm STARVING TO DEATH!" And he then commented, "Hey, you know I support you and admire your tenacity, but you and I also both know that in 14 days you're gonna be a broken-down shell, hobbling around like an old lady. You're not 26 anymore, you know!" It's a testament to the fact that we're still compatible after 16 years together and all the stress of parenting the baby-years, that I laughed really hard at him (rather than throwing a sofa pillow at his head).

Lastly, I have some big writing news coming soon. I know, I know--the cliffhanger: so unfair! But I've got a shivery Starfish to get to swimming just now. Stay tuned, and check back tomorrow for all the details. Promise.