Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Think You Don't Care About My Hair. But I Know You Really Do.

Why no, the fact that it is suddenly apparently winter and soon we'll turn the clocks back and then it will be dark at 5 p.m. and last night I resigned myself and allowed my hairstylist to cut two MORE inches off my hair in order to save it from total destruction, bringing the total to FOUR INCHES IN TWO MONTHS and resulting in the most boringest of boring shoulder-length-long-layers-mom-haircut, no--that is NOT helping my mood, thank you for asking!

(Here's a tip for you: if you're a delicate Scandinavian with the requisite sensitive and fragile super-blonde hair, don't grow it really long, skip hair trims, spend every day outdoors in a harsh climate so that it dries out and becomes even more vulnerable, have babies and experience hormonal changes which alter the structure and texture of your hair forever, nor use any kind of heat-styling tool to do your hair in the mornings. In other words, just shave your head and be done with it.)

On the plus side, my hairstylist complimented my little-extra-weight loss and my outfit, and my six-year-old said, when she saw my short(er) hair in the morning, "I like it even better this way, Mama! You always look pretty." (And I didn't even encourage her to say that. Isn't she the sweetest thing?)

Also on the plus side: playdate this morning with two of my favorite friends. Also, the 60 mph category 3 hurricane (seriously) winds of the past two-days-long wind- and rain-storm have waned. To, you know, only 30 or 40 mph. I'm kidding. It's really 26. AND the snow that fell didn't stick, nor last, nor continue to fall.

Winter, weather, haircuts, playdates. Keeping it real, people! And probably a little boring. (Sorry!)

No, I'm not posting a picture of my new hair. Instead I am posting a photo of
the way I wish my hair still looked. Because I like to torture myself that way.



Old School


You know your month is busy when you have to write things down in the margins.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Wore a Parka to School Drop-Off Today. With a Hood. Also a Winter Scarf. And Gloves.

OK, um, it is snowing right now. Also, the winds have been hurricane-strong (i.e. 50-60 mph) for almost 24 hours. For anyone keeping track, six days ago it was 70 degrees and I was wearing a sundress. OK then.

In other news, this is what my mom had to say about the amount of homework I had when I was in first grade:

"In thinking some more about it, I really think homework as such didn't start until third grade when you went to school. Which is as it should still be! That's plenty of time!! Kids need time to PLAY and just to BE!"

Just to clarify, I HAVE A PH.D. So, you know, I'm pretty sure that the fact that I didn't have homework at age six didn't do me any harm.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grace in Small Things

Yesterday my six-year-old came home with a backpack stuffed with papers, announcements, homework instructions, assigned books (to read with a parent), notebooks of spelling words to study (with a parent), word games to complete (with a parent), log sheets on which to record all the assigned things we've done each week. I may have cursed someone. (Not her teacher, whom I adore. Some other, nameless, larger force that is intent on filling my life with tedious first-grade homework. This is a broader movement. I blame former President Bush, actually. So maybe the force is not so nameless.)

This morning we woke up to rain and ridiculous wind. (Yet another Wind Advisory, in fact, and a weather forecast of dropping temperatures all day and snow out west.) Genevieve starting throwing a fit about 15 minutes before we were due to leave for the bus stop. It took her 10 minutes longer than usual to put on her socks, shoes, and jacket and get out the door to go wait for Julia's bus. I was sure we were going to miss it. (We didn't.)

She cried, wailed, and yelled all the way down the block, at 7:55 a.m. The wind blew rain in our faces. My umbrella turned inside out twice. I had not had time to grab my coat. My ponytail turned wet and curly. I told Julia to run, because I thought I heard the bus coming. Genevieve trailed behind us, wailing crabbily over everything and nothing.

We got to the bus stop, where everyone else was waiting. They had watched us straggle down the block and heard Genevieve crying the whole way. My neighbor smiled at me over the kids' umbrellas and shook his head knowingly, which made me laugh even as my umbrella turned inside out yet again and Genevieve scowled at everyone. Julia accidentally let go of her umbrella in the outrageous wind and it flew down the street, and my neighbor ran after it and retrieved it for us even though he was carrying a coffee mug and it couldn't have been fun.

When Genevieve and I walked back to the house after the bus came, our useless umbrellas down, our faces and heads and bodies getting wet, and her crying (again) the whole way and dragging her feet against the chilly wind, I felt a little better about things.

Sometimes the most important thing in the world is being reminded that you're not alone in all this parenting drama, that other parents understand--that they see that tantrum and just know in their bones that it's been going on for 20 minutes and you probably had to fight her to get her socks on and you've already threatened no treats for the entire day. And then they go and chase your kid's umbrella down for you when it sails off into the sky and down the street toward the farm field.

Small blessings. (Or maybe not so small, really.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Would Make It Better?

Autumn in Red Wing



Last winter. Ugh.

Normally I love autumn, and Halloween. This year I still love autumn, but more than usual it is tinged with dread about winter. And since where I live, autumn is very brief and winter is very long, that makes it a little hard to fully enjoy autumn. It's like the Sunday afternoon of seasons. You're trying to have a good time and squeeze every drop of pleasure out of it, and yet you know what's coming next, and its looming presence casts a pall over the moment. Winter is the Monday morning of seasons. If Monday morning lasted five months.

I have never loved five months of winter, but I've always looked forward to the beginning of winter--as I do the beginning of every season. But not this year. I'm not even happy about fall turning cold--which hasn't happened yet, amazingly. But I know the cold is coming, and I am not ready for the chill.

I think last winter scarred me. It was long. Trying. Very, very icy. There were two months straight when every outdoor paved surface was covered in a hard casing of ice, and I ran four days a week at almost a crawl, barely able to take a step without falling. It sucked. A lot of times I just skipped the run and opted for sweets in front of the fireplace, and I had the winter weight gain to prove it. Life was dreary and difficult and boring and cold. It sucked.

I am not relishing the idea of living through that again.

Also, summer was so incredibly awesome that it's been really hard for me to consider letting go of all the park playdates, the racing outside to play in sandals and no jackets, the hours in the backyard with the kiddos cavorting in the sun and breeze. It went by way too fast. As is autumn.

So, this year--although we just finished a super-fun school fall vacation, during which we played at the park with friends, hosted a playdate, made autumn-leaf cookies, and went to Red Wing, and all that autumnal activity was great--even the thought of Halloween sort of makes me want to lie down and cry. Or at the very least take a nap. Because after Halloween comes November, and cold wind, and snow flurries, and hosting Thanksgiving, and all the cooking and baking and eating and difficulty running that will quite possibly herald the return of the extra pounds.

I just want to bolt outside after dinner with bare legs and arms and run down the street and off to my favorite trail to pound out my six miles in the glowing sunset. I don't want to put on tights and fleece and gloves and a hat and freeze the whole time. I don't want to wrangle two children into snow pants and parkas and boots and hats and mittens just to walk half a block down to the bus stop every morning at 8 a.m. I don't want to stand at the bus stop in windchills of 20 below zero. I don't want to be trapped inside with two small children most days because you can't really play at the park in mittens and boots with three feet of snow. And when children are very little, they are limited in their stamina for playing outside in the snow in the backyard. Their little cheeks get chapped and snow gets down their boots and down the necks of their jackets and they cry. Then they come to the back door and press their mittened palms and their faces against the glass and beg to come in. You sort of have to let them.

To summarize: last winter sucked, last summer rocked, autumn is too short.

Uh...Happy Halloween?

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Still Think I Should Get an 'A' for 'Thinking on My Feet.'

Yesterday afternoon my dear friend Veronica called from Texas. I don't get to talk to her often enough, but bless her soul when we do talk she actually graciously puts up with things like hearing screaming in the background or having me say, "Honey, put down the cat food!" or "No. No honey in the hair!!!" while she is talking. (She does not have kids, but is sort of the dream childless best friend--patient and empathic and adoring of my children and willing to listen to long soliloquies about potty training or preschool orientation. Can you imagine? What a saint.)

Anyway, I could not pick up the phone at the second that she called, and then when I listened to her message and heard her ask me to give her a ring back, I just had to send off a quick e-mail to her so that she'd know why I wasn't responding. This is what I wrote:

OMG I totally can't talk right now, got your message but am hosting a 3-hour playdate over school vacation and G. is having a tantrum and I am trying to make a fairy wand out of a play recorder (musical instrument), stickers, and ribbon (b/c we don't have 3 wands in our house but we currently have 3 girls). Gah! Save me. ~ Shan

And this is what I made:


I know. I know.

I mean, just...I know. You don't have to say anything.

In my defense, I made that in about 60 seconds. Including frantically thinking of what object we currently own that vaguely resembles a wand shape (work with me here), finding the ribbon from our gift-wrap supplies (in the back of the storage closet) and digging the stickers out of the girls' craft box.

Do I even need to say, the four-year-old rejected the homemade wand?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's Time...


....To make autumn leaf cookies with children! Or, to be more exact--leaf, pumpkin, and apple-shaped cookies. Yes, we did it again. Because it's school vacation, you all! And what better time to make homemade yellow, orange, and brown-marbled cookies in lovely autumn shapes? And also to wake up at the exact same god-awful early time I normally wake up on school days? Because certain small children who shall remain nameless would no sooner sleep late than they would sprout wings and fly?

Also a good time to rake leaves, host a playdate, eat candy corn, freelance-write, run run run run (to work off all those cookies! and candy corn!), play at the park, have Family Movie Night, and go on a day trip to a nearby river-bluff town to see (real) eagles and a huge fancy playground and a great bakery and fall foliage and a giant boot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things I've Written Elsewhere (And Gotten Paid for It!)

About two months ago I started a freelance writing gig that involves producing brief web-based articles on nutrition and health for well-known health/news websites. The pieces I write mainly wind up on Livestrong.com, which is really perfect for runner, vegetarian, supplement-taker, health-food-lover, wellness-coach, health-columnist me. (Just don't tell them I also eat Cheetos and Culver's Pumpkin Pecan-flavored frozen custard milkshakes.) Because I write for a company that contracts with the sites, the structure, length, and parameters of the articles are predetermined; as such, I wouldn't say these pieces are my best writing, and my name isn't even on them. But Rita, at least, hoped to see what I was getting paid to write, so here are a few pieces for your reading pleasure.

Are you trying to eat clean? Read this and suddenly think twice about that candy corn you swiped from your kid's treat stash.

Curious about food additives and ADHD? A very basic primer, here.

Wondering how to improve your cholesterol? Consider these tips and you, too, might end up with my freakishly high HDL level.

And now I am off to take my fish oil supplement and drink my spinach and flaxseed smoothie. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Involved Parenting

Last night was Julia's first grade parent-teacher conference. It was delightful in every way; Julia is a star student, very advanced academically, sweet and considerate, and loves school, so basically things like this are always positive. (She has experienced an obstacle or two involving girls excluding her on the playground, but this seems to be nipped in the bud and not indicative of any larger issue of social rejection or bullying. She struggles with a very shy and timid temperament, which is a hindrance on a rowdy school playground.) Plus, she has who some have called the best teacher in the school, and we thoroughly enjoyed talking with her about how Julia is doing in first grade. It is clear her teacher adores her.

But can I just say, WHAT IS WITH ALL THE HOMEWORK???? Seriously, in first grade? I can't stand it.

Before I became a parent, I knew there were going to be two things I would hardly be able to tolerate. (Ha! Just two. Don't you just love the naivete?) These two things were a.) board games, and b.) homework.

Well, I know myself very well. Because here I am, six years into parenthood, many years after I first pegged my dislikes, and guess what. I hate board games, and I hate dealing with homework. I mean, I even hate the VERY MINOR "homework" I sometimes have to supervise for nursery school. And if I bristle at having to locate a family photo or make an "About Me" page (which is very, very sweet in the end, a great idea, honestly), can you imagine how I feel about 20 minutes of nightly reading, twice-weekly math worksheets, daily poem-of-the week reading/memorizing, and, I hear, starting next week, spelling lists to study every week and an ongoing assignment that will involve a parent playing two stated word games with Julia per week and log them in a special notebook?

Seriously?

Sigh. I try to be a good, supportive, involved parent. I value education. I was really great at school as a kid. So good I went to school UNTIL I WAS 29 YEARS OLD.

But people, that's kind of the point. I AM DONE WITH HOMEWORK.

I hate how homework for (young) children is basically homework for children AND parents. I hate how there's so much of it that it takes up every spare minute between the afternoon bus and bedtime that isn't used for outdoor play (hello, yes, I consider that mandatory), dinner, and getting ready for bed. Mostly I hate that it does not seem necessary to have so much homework at six years old.

But what's even worse is imagining what it's going to be like in the future, if it's like this--and I feel this way about it--in FIRST GRADE.

Moving on. The good news is that I am going to be a weekly room parent in Julia's classroom beginning soon, one morning a week while Genevieve is in preschool. Yes, that means I am giving up one of my three mornings per week of writing time. But it is worth it. As an at-home mom, I feel called to do what I can in this regard, for both my daughters and their schools. I am needed. And Julia is so happy and proud.

Just call me First Grade Room Mother. I feel so retro.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Straight Weeks of Sunshine

"Which way to the pumpkins as big as my entire body?"

On Saturday we went out to a fall festival at a local pumpkin farm we visit every October. Interestingly, they have several little gift shops there, and the girls and I discovered a china nativity set at one of them. All last fall I searched for a china creche that was affordable, to put up for Christmas, to no avail. This one was lovely, though a bit odd in that there was no stable, but instead three background buildings, a church and two houses, presumably supposed to be Bethlehem. But, eh, that's OK. The set was super low-priced for such things, and then everything was 30% off as well. Score! The girls loved it.

Of course we bought the nativity set. However, when I got home and unwrapped all the pieces to see them more closely, I discovered there were only two wise men.

This is sort of how my life has been going lately.

On the other hand, the creche is really pretty, all shiny and white. And that's sort of how my life has been going lately, too.

This is what I have learned in the past week. That even little new first-graders can be less than nice on the playground at recess. That it IS possible to write a chapter a week. That whoa time is flying if it is already parent-teacher conferences time at school. That sometimes you have to put rude people in their place, and that it is very satisfying to do so from the moral high ground. That watching your girls' faces crumple into tears because their grandparents' long-awaited visit had to be canceled at the very last minute will break your heart. That little girls jumping into leaf piles is one of the most joyful sights in all the world. That everything is better with peanut butter. That pumpkin-pie-flavored frozen custard will improve your Friday night considerably. That you can always say that one wise man stopped to get coffee.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Peanut Butter-Banana Muffins

This photo does not look very appealing, I admit.
But these muffins were SO GOOD, I swear.

Yes, I'm still baking. More muffins, even! Can you believe it? Well, you see, they're so easy to make with willing four-year-olds, and they're so great for freezing and popping out one or two at a time to microwave-thaw for children's breakfasts. And they're so perfect for lunchbox snacks. And when you make healthy varieties, like I generally do, you can feel good about serving your children what are essentially pastries, only not really.

This morning I created this recipe. I had no idea if it would work or even taste right, but OH MY HEAVENS SO GOOD. Seriously, I had no intention of posting this recipe until I tasted one of these muffins and determined that the whole world needs to try them. Or, you know, the 50 or so people who read my blog. Ha ha ha!

OK, seriously. You have to make these. SO good, so wholesome, so satisfying. Packed full of whole grains and high-protein/high-calcium yogurt or milk or buttermilk. Full of banana and heart-healthy, kid-friendly peanut butter. How can you go wrong? You can't.

Peanut Butter-Banana Muffins
makes 12 to 16

Ingredients:

2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup milk, OR 1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whole oats
2/3 cup (approximate; I did not measure) peanut butter
1 large mashed ripe banana
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12 to 16 muffin cups with papers.

In large bowl, mix eggs, yogurt/milk or buttermilk, oil, brown sugar, and oats. In a small bowl, mix together peanut butter and mashed banana. Add peanut butter-banana mixture to other wet ingredients and mix well.

In a separate large bowl, mix both flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir only until everything is combined; do not over-mix.
Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin cups, about 3/4 full. (The number of cups you fill will depend on the size of your muffin tin cups and how big you want your muffins to be. I made 16 muffins.)

Bake about 14 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean or mostly so. Watch carefully; mine almost burned on top when I did 15 minutes initially.

Let cool on wire rack, then devour warm or at room temperature. Soooooo delish.

Wouldn't these be great with jam, cream cheese, or just simply plain and warm for breakfast?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Shortcut Peanut Butter Cookies


So the other night I realized at the last minute that I needed some refreshments to serve company the next day. Only I didn't have any butter out of the freezer, so I couldn't make my usual cookies or brownies. And I felt too lazy to make any of my favorite muffins, which call for quite a few ingredients.

So I made what has to be the simplest cookie recipe in the world. Seriously, you won't believe these cookies even work, but they do. I mean, three ingredients? No flour? Insanity!

I figured maybe you'd like to have the simplest cookie recipe in the world on hand too, for those evenings you realize at the last minute that you need sweet treats in your pantry too. So here it is. And it's good! The cookies turn out really yummy. Like, oops I just ate four yummy. For example. Just an example.

Note: it's a small recipe; it only makes about 24 cookies. Also, I used a jar of cheap, "regular" peanut butter--the kind with added sugar and palm oil--for this recipe, because I didn't want to use up a cup of my usual expensive, all-natural peanut butter, the kind made ONLY from peanuts and salt, even though that's the kind of peanut butter our family normally uses. I happened to have a jar of Skippy on hand from when my parents brought us groceries awhile back. You go ahead and do what you like.

Enjoy!

Shortcut Peanut Butter Cookies
makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the peanut butter, sugar, and egg. If dough is very soft, refrigerate for awhile until it firms up enough to roll. Pour some sugar onto a small plate. Then, roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Take a fork and press each ball down in two directions to make criss-cross marks.

Bake about 10 minutes, or until golden brown around edges. Let sit on sheet for a minute, then remove to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pick Your Drama: Tree, First-Grade Recess, Snake, Working From Home.

So this morning I had a tree-care company out to our house to give me an estimate for getting our birch and maple trees trimmed. A friend who had just done the same guessed that, given the size of our trees and (assumed) simplicity of the trimming, the price would probably be something like $50 or $60. Turns out it's going to be more like $325, because one tree has girdling of the trunk due to root problems, which will slowly kill the tree, and the same tree also has two main stretches of trunk battling for domination, which also causes problems.

Trees are very complicated, people! Who knew?

All I can say is, THANK GOODNESS I am working these days. I've been freelance writing for Livestrong.com (health and nutrition sections), through a contract company, and keeping up a pace that earns me about $250 a week. I just started about a month and a half ago though, so I'm not sure how it will go, long-term. It seems like such a dream, such a perfect fit for my current circumstances, that I'm afraid at any moment I'll get an e-mail saying the company is folding. Or that they are cutting their writers' fees down to $5 an article. But so far, so good, and extra money like this is the only thing allowing us to get our trees trimmed or sign the girls up for their one extra-curricular class each, or pay the credit card bill for the doctor appointments and school clothes and groceries from July and August. (Big thanks to great friend Lori for tipping me off about this job.)

In other, less boring, news, no sign of the snake for a full week now. Good Lord, the snake! I still can't believe it.

Also, Julia came home the other day crying because no one played with her at recess. Oh, the social heartbreaks of school, so soon! First grade! (We problem-solved, and the next day she asked Olivia to play, and all was well.)

And finally, there is not enough time after school in the afternoon for playing outside, dinner, first-grade homework, a minor chore or two, practicing tying shoes, the occasional bath, and picking out school clothes for the next day while still getting my daughters in bed as early as they truly need to be in bed. Good grief! It's crazy. From 3:27 on, it's like one big Amazing Race. At the very time I'm trying to cook dinner and perhaps go for a run. And write! Write those freelance articles for pay.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: first grade is hard! But good. All in all, good. If only that tree in my yard wasn't wearing girdles and waging battles. Or whatever.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Autumn Muffins


I like making muffins, have you noticed?

Here's my gift to you today: a lovely, autumn-colored, spicy, moist muffin I made (up) yesterday, using the perhaps surprising ingredient of gorgeous, deep-orange, silky, baked squash, mashed up like a banana and folded into the wet ingredients like that's exactly where it's always belonged.

You won't taste squash, exactly, so if you don't like squash (WHAT?!), don't dismiss this recipe. What you'll taste is the warm, sweet, cinnamon-and-nutmeg, robust taste of something like autumn. With the color of a sunset, and lots of vitamins and antioxidants.

And a few chocolate chips. (Optional.)

(Tip: It might be best to make these muffins when you've already baked up a squash for dinner or some other reason and have some leftover, since roasting a squash takes awhile. The amount in the recipe is not precise, so you can use whatever approximate amount you have leftover after making squash soup or whatever else delicious squash business you have going on in your kitchen.)

Yummy Autumn Muffins
makes 12

Ingredients:

2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups mashed baked squash, scooped out of its shell (like butternut, buttercup, or acorn)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with papers. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, and mashed squash. In a separate large bowl, mix together the two flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined. Fold in mini chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 full. (Muffins will not rise a whole lot due to the dense whole-wheat flour, but they will rise some, and the whole-wheat flour adds protein and fiber and the baked muffins are still soft and delicious, as long as you don't overbake them.)

Bake about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean or almost so. Do NOT overbake.

These freeze well and make great snacks and lunch-box treats.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Walk the Walk

I can't believe how little I've written here lately. Well, today will be no exception. It is Walk-a-Thon day at my daughter's elementary school. That means the classes all walk around the soccer fields outside the school, first each grade at their own time during the day, and then with the whole school and everyone's families at the end of the afternoon. Parents can come and walk with their kids' classrooms in addition to the all-school/all-family walk at the end of the day, which I will be doing. It's a fundraiser, but a nice, good one: instead of selling cookie dough or wrapping paper, students ask for a flat donation, then spend a sunny gorgeous October Friday out in the fresh air, getting exercise, feeling proud of themselves and their school, and then sharing the whole experience with the families of this neighborhood school. Gotta love that.

Anyway, all this means that I don't have any free time today. While Genevieve is at preschool, I'll be meeting up with Julia's first-grade class to walk with them this morning. Later today I'll bring Genevieve to the school and the three of us will walk again. My daughters are super-excited.

It's a good excuse to not be writing, though, isn't it?

Hmmm, maybe shouldn't have done a super-hard, hilly, six-mile trail run last evening, the night before the Walk-a-Thon. Because for me it might end up being a Hobble-a-Thon.

Walk on!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dear Parents of Girls

One of my favorite bloggers, Jen of Prior Fat Girl, put this video up on her blog the other day. It's for a new book by Dr. Robyn Silverman, a renowned psychologist, columnist, and expert on girls, weight, and body image, but that's not why I want you to watch it. If you go and buy Dr. Silverman's book after you do--which I will likely do--fantastic. But if you're the parent of a girl, just watching the four minutes below, on their own, might change your parenting life.

I'm a psychologist too, and I have daughters, and when I was practicing, I specialized in girls, women, weight, eating disorders, body image, health, and mood also--much like Dr. Silverman. But you don't have to be a mental health expert to find this video stunning and compelling. No matter your views on weight as it relates to health, there is no denying that our culture's emphasis on weight as indicative of girls' and women's worth in the world is poisonous and sad. And there is no denying that our culture's idea of appropriate body size is not based on a healthy range that takes into account age, stage of growth (i.e. prepubertal vs. in the midst of puberty vs. post-puberty vs. childbearing age/stage, etc.), frame size, height, body composition, genetics, and activity level, but is instead based on super-narrow criteria that many of can't meet even if we eat normally and exercise moderately.

If you have a daughter, please take four minutes to watch it. Do it when you can concentrate, when you can see and read every word. I promise it is worth four minutes of your time. As Jen from Prior Fat Girl says, if you can read this, you're influential. So act like it.



Note: if the video screen above does not display correctly when you click Play, and you can't see the whole image, please go to this web address to watch it there:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmxq4VfA6LU&feature=player_embedded

Monday, October 04, 2010

Snakes IN MY YARD.

You'll have to excuse me for awhile, because I am now having a heart attack.

Because of what SHOWED UP IN OUR BACKYARD TODAY.

Exactly where my daughters and I had been playing and gardening IN THE GRASS FOR 90 MINUTES ONLY A HALF HOUR BEFORE.

Ready? Not for the faint of heart:

Eastern Hognose Snake

Now, keep in mind that this photo seems quite small, and yet this snake CAN GROW TO NEARLY FOUR FEET LONG. Which the one in our yard most definitely was. (This is not the one in our yard.)

Hyperventilating. OMG. OMG. OMG.

Want to know more?

"Description: Sometimes called "puff adders," eastern hognose snakes are thick-bodied snakes that reach about 46 in (115 cm) long. These snakes are easily distinguished by their upturned snouts, but they are variable in color. The eastern hognose has a background color that can be yellow, gray, brown, green or black, often patterned with large, rectangular spots down the middle of the back that may resemble eyespots. The scales of this snake are keeled and the underside of the tail is usually lighter than the rest of the venter. The females of this species have a tail that has a fine taper to the end of the tail, while the males have a slight bulge near the cloaca and the tail then tapers off drastically. When confronted, the hognose snake will suck in air; spread the skin around its head and neck (like a cobra), hiss, and lunge pretending to strike. Eventually, they will even play dead, rolling on their back and opening their mouth. Often, these displays alone are enough to identify this species. Despite this fairly convincing show, hognose snakes almost never bite."

(from the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory website)

GAH! Terrified! Nauseous. Will have nightmares tonight for sure.

Where did it go? Where does it live? Where is its nest WITH ITS 60 BABIES IT HATCHES EVERY LATE SUMMER OR EARLY AUTUMN?!?!

It is time to move.

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate-Chip Muffins

Last week I wrote ten freelance articles on health and nutrition. I also wrote a chapter for my book--the chapter on moms' fitness--and an outline for the next. Practicing what I preach, I ran a total of 17 miles and did a couple of short strength workouts. I cooked for a close friend with a new baby, and I spent most of a day visiting her and her family--new nursling and all--with my family. I took Julia to swimming lessons. I spent 90 minutes at the eye doctor and organized a volunteer committee for cleaning the classrooms at my daughters' co-op nursery school. I took my children to our CSA farm to get vegetables and pick flowers. I hosted a playdate and went on two or three others at the park with fellow-mom friends and their kids, after school. I took Genevieve on a picnic for lunch one day, and to library storytime another. She and I baked chocolate-chip-butterscotch bars (that would be "pan cookies" to those of you not from Minnesota) together, and banana-chocolate-chip muffins too, because can you ever have too many chocolate chips? Not if you're four.

A friend asked me how I could possibly be that productive last week. I told her I gave up some sleep, but the other part of the answer is this: I didn't waste much time, and I didn't blog very often.

All of which is a really long way to say: a.) I don't have time to blog every day right now, sorry; and b.) Remember those muffins I just mentioned? Here's the recipe, which provides me with an easy, lazy blog post.

No, really, they're very yummy. And just the thing to bring to postpartum nursing mamas who are so hungry they eat two roast-beef sandwiches for breakfast one day. (So they tell me.) And also to feed to sweet children on playdates or for after-school snacks.


Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate-Chip Muffins
makes 12

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 c. canola oil
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 1-1/2 bananas)
1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, and mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, mix the two flours, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined. Add chocolate chips and fold in.

Spoon into muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Do not overbake, or muffins will be dry.

These muffins are great served warm, but also freeze well for later breakfasts and snacks. Or bringing to friends with new babies.