Friday, February 26, 2010

Affording to eat well

I had mentioned a while back that I'd like to defend the cost of food at places like Whole Foods. I really could write a lot on this subject, but mainly I shop at Whole Foods (and believe me, I'm on a STRICT budget) because I care about what my food is made of. I know that it probably costs me more than most people in my tax bracket care to spend, but I know that I'm not going to inadvertantly buy MSG or Red #40 or High Fructose Corn Syrup. It just is not going to be at Whole Foods. Now, I know that I can probably read the labels at Harris Teeter and get out of there without any such scary "ingredients," but I really like that I'm buying at a store that is on-board with the whole philosophy (kind of like having a baby at home as opposed to a hospital).
Okay, I've read The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I understand that there is a difference between what Michael Pollan calls "Industrial Organic" and the real thing (as in local organic). I do my best to buy locally from the farmers' markets and other local sources, but there are times that I need to get to one place and do all the shopping then.
It takes a paradigm shift to swallow spending more money. So, as for defending the prices, I'm happy to pay a little more for the confidence that I'm buying GOOD food that is actually food, not food with junk added to it so that it can sit on my shelf for 2 years. I'm happy to provide for my family real meals that have been cooked here at home and not at some factory.  And, yes, we do spend a little more, especially on things like organic chicken and grass-fed beef. But the way we get around that little hiccup is to eat less meat. Portion sizes have gotten way out of control over the years anyway, and some people don't realize that a serving of meat should be about the size of the palm of your hand. Here are a couple of ways that I've stretched out our meals.
While I'm not Catholic, Paul is, so I like to do seafood dishes on Fridays during the season of Lent. Last week we had fish 'n' chips. Tonight we had salmon chowder. I adapted a recipe that I'd found on All Recipes.

Salmon Chowder
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Onion (medium)
2 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Stalks celery
1/2 C flour
6 C Chicken or vegetable broth
1 Lb. Potatoes, cubed
1 Tbsp. Fresh tarragon
1 Tbsp. Fresh thyme 
1 Lb. Salmon fillet, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 Vermouth (or dry white wine)
1/4 Teaspoon Hot sauce
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Black pepper
1 C heavy cream
1 Bag of frozen sweet corn

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine the butter, olive oil, garlic, and celery. Cook until onions are soft and transparent. Stir in flour to make a roux. Gradually add broth and stir until thickened. Add potatoes and herbs. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Stir in salmon, vermouth, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Simmer over low heat, uncovered for 10 minutes.
Add cream and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let boil once cream is added. Add corn and stir just to heat through. Serve hot.
This recipe is so easy and absolutely delicious! We ate until we were full, and I know we'll have enough for at least lunch tomorrow! It's a great way to stretch out a main entree that could potentially be on the pricier side.

I also like to stretch out a whole organic chicken by roasting it with a ton of fresh veggies one night, and then turning it into soup the next. This little vegetarian-fed hen cost me about 10 or 12 bucks and fed us three times!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Nursing Our Future" (Breastfeeding video)

I'm posting a link to a video that was made by many members of Holistic Moms Network in response to an article in Australia. The article reports that young women are reluctant to nurse their babies in public, but this video says otherwise. Please watch this. It's beautiful.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


We're still under several feet of snow here. Some are calling it "Sno'verkill" or "Blizzaster." Hilarious, but some still are "sno'ver it." We spent the day inside again yesterday, which was actually pretty fun. Yes, we have a touch of cabin fever, but we are making the most of being together and watching such a beautiful, albeit scarily windy, snowfall. DC has received it's snowiest winter in recorded history, with a total of 56 inches. The former record was 47 inches, if that gives you any idea what an anomaly this winter has been!

This morning Paul and I bundled up the kids and ourselves and headed up the street to investigate the neighborhood and grab breakfast at our favorite local coffee shop. I never realized how fake snow in this quantity can look. It's so funny to me. This kind of snow is surreal. The way the sun hits it and it glistens reminds me so much of the Christmas decorations around a Santa's Workshop display in a mall. And the icicles! Paul keeps commenting on how many photos I'm taking of the icicles, but these babies are three and four feet long. They're incredible! While we walked (and slipped and trudged), I took a few pictures and contemplated my next blog post. Today I'm writing about a few lessons I've learned from the incredible winter that we are enduring.

1. There can indeed exist too much of a good thing. And I'm not just talking snow. I'm talking cookies, s'mores, and playtime.

2. A winter like this brings out the best and the worst in people. For the most part, people are feeling some sense of community, some excitement. On our walk this morning, I felt this warm energy exuded by our neighbors, even those deep in the hard work of shoveling. There's this we're-all-in-this-together feeling being shared. And I love it. But there are many people who have hit their limits. And I'm not judging. I'm trying to remember, while I'm off of work and enjoying spending time with the family and romping around in the snow, I have no idea what the next guy is going through. Which brings me to my next lesson . . .

3. There's always somebody who has things worse. We are so lucky (and so thankful) to have power--MANY people do not. I have no idea what we would do without power. I guess we would dress in many layers and bundle up with blankets. I have a friend who offered to bring over a small grill so that we could heat up a few things to eat. And I suppose we would survive with candlelight and lack of radio, TV, and Internet access. So, we would survive, but life with power is so much better than life without. There are also many people with several days of lost wages, which is crippling to the working poor. We are very fortunate to be receiving wages even though we're not responsible for our regular work hours these few days.

4. Know your limits, and be okay with them. After all, there is only so much Candyland a mom can play before things start looking like a scene from "The Shining," and before you know it, someone is muttering "red rum" or hacking at the bathroom door with an axe. When cabin fever sets in, it's okay to turn on your child's favorite video for a few minutes and take a nap, take a bath, or read a book that contains no pictures.

Watching from the window:
Our front door:
See what I mean?:
A few views of the neighborhood:
"It's bigger than me!"
On our walk this morning:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blizzard 2010

Didn't someone once say, "Parenting is two percent inspiration and 98 percent exasperation"? Okay, well, if no one ever said it before, I'm saying it now. Maybe not exasperation, but on a good day, it's at least 98 percent exhaustion.
This weekend, we in the DC metro area and many other places, are enduring the Blizzard of 2010. It's the second blizzard to have hit this area in 6 weeks, and it's a doozy. We keep hearing such statistics as "We are now hitting our all-time record for most snow in a season," and "This is the fourth biggest snow in DC history." And it's barely February!
Our experience with this snow storm officially started on Thursday evening when I had to go to Whole Foods with all the other last-minute shoppers and make sure that we had enough supplies to last the few days of what they're calling "Snowpocalypse." I knew it would be pretty busy, but as soon as I finally got the minivan inside the parking garage, I was overwhelmed with this energy that I can only describe as desperate fluster. Not me, of course. I was happy to just be out of the house, mind you. But everywhere I looked there were harried expressions and racing grocery carts and food flying off of shelves. It was as if all these people had won a shopping spree and were simultaneously racing the clock. Insane.
I'd finally made it through to the checkout line with a shopping cart full of slow-cook items (chicken soup anyone?) and junk-food items (who ever heard of sitting through a blizzard without cheese puffs?), when I heard over the loud speaker, "Attention, Whole Foods shoppers, we wanted you to know that we now have bananas." In case you're wondering, yes, the song "We Have no Bananas Today" also entered my mind. If you weren't wondering, please disregard my latest admission of dorkiness. Anyway, so, we heard the announcement, and you would have thought that the shopping spree winners were now on the bonus round, searching for the golden ticket. Half the store RAN to the produce section and nearly mobbed the poor guy unloading the banana cart. Bananas for bananas (sorry, it was begging to be said).
I, too, ran for this most precious commodity, and when I made it back to my shopping cart, the guy who checked me out was just so pleasant. That's one thing that I absolutely love about Whole Foods. Say what you will about their prices (and that's a talk we can definitely have another time--I'll be more than happy to defend them), but the service is amazing. This nice young college guy asked what I'm planning to do during the storm. I sort of blanked. Charlie's ballet class will be canceled, and we'll have to stay in, but otherwise, it's not really going to be any different for me than any other Saturday. I imagine we'll play and I'll change a few diapers, breastfeed a little, cook and wash some dishes, and hang out with Paul all the while. But mostly I'll be keeping my small kids busy and happy.
The snow started around 10 Friday morning and started accumulating later on in the day and has since dumped somewhere between 20 and 24 inches here. The trees out front have lost several branches, and I'm sure that when we finally get out for a walk tomorrow, we'll see a lot more damage in the neighborhood. I'm so thankful, though, that we still have power. Many people in this area don't. And I'm so thankful that we are all together. It's so wonderful to have Paul and our little ones all under one roof while the snow piles up outside and the wind is howling. But, and I say this in the most grateful way possible, it is absolutely exhausting. In a good way. :)
We have been very, very busy today. I ventured out only once for about 4 minutes to take a few photos. Because it's 13 degrees with the wind chill factor, I was surprised at how many people I saw out there--the other crazies taking pictures, a few kids with sleds, and the poor souls responsible for dogs' potty breaks. But inside, we baked blueberry muffins from scratch, we made this fabric wreath, we made watercolor lanterns, we baked white chocolate chip cookies (also from scratch), and we played and played. And played.
No sir, parents of small children don't get to sleep in on the weekends, and we certainly don't get to watch movies all day or sip hot chocolate while we lazily watch the snowflakes drift down from a gray sky. But we DO get to bake and work on fun crafts! :) And tomorrow we'll head out to play and build another snowman. This one will be bigger, since daddy's home this time.
Our wreath:
The walkway and snow banks right outside the kitchen door:
One of the trees in the courtyard. I take a picture of this tree almost every time it snows:
Our watercolor lanterns:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Graced again with snow!

Oh, my goodness. Tuesday we got our fourth (or was it our fifth? i've lost track) snow this season! It was just a few inches, but we still had snow on the ground since the last storm. This one was the first one that was any good for packing a snowball or building a snowman (or snow-woman, in this case).
I'd like to send out a message to our loved little ones who live south of here and are DYING to have snow to play with: Our prayers are with you. :) As we await our fifth (or sixth?) snow (which is promising to be another blizzard), we are asking God to send the giant piles of snow your way, too.
Here are just a few pics of us playing.
Action shot:
I wish we could've built a bigger one, but remember, I had Charlie and two barely-walking toddlers in tow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Groundhog Day Means to Me

The other day, after I'd painted the picture of a typical day in my home daycare, a woman actually said to me, "That sounds like a lovely day! I wish I could just play and go outside, but I have to go to the office." Maybe she was being sweet and complimentary and positive, but I honestly laughed, because I thought she was kidding. She had to be kidding, right? We do our best to get outside, yes, but it's not so simple as just opening the kitchen door and floating out with bluebirds greeting us and humming a tune while the children skip and play. It's like a military operation. It probably takes me about 30 minutes to get everyone on board and bundled up so that we can spend about 30 minutes out there before I need to triage. The last time I described my typical day for someone, she said, "No offense, but that sounds like torture." I'm really not offended by either comment.

So, I'm not here to whine or build myself up like some kind of hero, but my life isn't nearly as glamorous as it may seem to the outsider. There is a lot of poop (when somebody was potty training and I had three babies here, for instance, I once changed 9 poopy diapers and cleaned up one accident in one day). There are lots of squashed peas to wipe up (I probably sweep and wipe the floor underneath the dining room table three times a day). Then there is the challenge of putting three kids (only three because, of course, Charlie no longer naps) down for naps in a two-bedroom condo. They all have to go down at the proper times and without waking each other up. I have to get food into them, even if they don't want it. Then I have to handle the unexpected like diaper blowouts or falls or gigantic spills of soup. And on top of all the logistical stuff, I must reserve enough energy to give each little one the "Essence of Mom," that little special touch or cuddling that every baby craves. I also have to give Charlie the attention that a four-year-old needs, which will soon include homeschooling.

Then I get everyone happy, fed, and changed, and just when I think I can sit down for five minutes, somebody cries, and I have to reach deep within my soul and cry out to the Almighty for the strength to stand up and care for the upset child. I tell you, a day at the office sounds like a vacation. Unless your office is in the middle of a volcano or something.

Yesterday was Groundhog Day (or Candlemas, for you more-Waldorf-less-Punxsutawney types). Groundhog Day marks the half-way point between the beginning of winter and the beginning of spring. I've always thought that February was the harshest month. Maybe that's why it's the shortest. But Groundhog Day always brings a glimmer of hope (I know this sounds ridiculous, but I spent my teen years in Pennsylvania, and both of my parents are from PA, so there is quite a lot of PA in me. If you were from there, you'd totally get it). It's the idea that it won't always be this way (Aha! I finally just got the irony of the movie!).

Which is precisely what Paul said to me this morning when I was complaining to Paul that sometimes I feel like I'm jailed in this house. I just don't get out enough these days. Part of it is the weather, part of it is just my chosen profession. Part of it is simply being a young family. So to put things into perspective, it won't always be winter, our kids won't always be this small, and then we'll have older kids. And then our kids won't even be kids, and Paul and I will be empty nesters. And in the VERY long term, we won't even be on this earth anymore. We'll be in eternity with our Creator, where we've been longing to be all this time.

In the grand scheme of things, this is going to be a very short time. And because of that, we had better make the most of it. I'm learning to offer my daily pressures up to God and view my work (both raising my own children and watching the others) as a ministry. When I see things this way, it's so much easier to wipe the runny nose, pick up the crying baby that doesn't want to nap anymore, or change the nasty diaper that just couldn't stay contained. But I also need to learn to cherish these times, not just endure them. Please don't think that I'm saying that my life is difficult, all work and no play. I do enjoy my work, and the kids do have a great time here. They're small for such a short time, and they're such a joy right now. That's partly why I blog, actually. It helps me to focus on what the daily task is teaching me.

So we are heading out into the snow today, to make the most of wintertime. I'm heading out there with Charlie and two just-barely-walking toddlers. There will inevitably be a fire to put out, but I will cross that bridge when we get there. In the meantime, we are bundling up to build a snowman and have some fun.

So, I hope this wasn't too much rambling for you. Thanks for always humoring my stream-of-consciousness kind of writing. With that, I'll leave you with these photos of the kids coloring a cheerful depiction of our Punxsutawney Phil.

This is the first time Judah ever colored a picture:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Things I Never Thought I'd Say v. 2

I haven't posted these in a while, and I have a few recent additions, so I thought I'd post again. Please pass along any that you'd like to add! If you're not familiar (I'm sure you can figure it out, but), this is a running collection of ridiculous things that we moms and dads find ourselves saying to our very creative little ones. If you stop to think about some of the things that actually escape your lips (and your good sense, for that matter), it might go something like this:

  • No, we don't want to eat the poopoo snakes.
  • Get your hands out of your pants and eat your cereal.
  • Hold on to your pee pee. I'm tired of cleaning pee off of everything.
  • That's okay, honey. Thanks for helping, but Mommy can wipe her own bottom.
  • Well, Momma is driving so wipe your boogy on your pants.
  • [Said to the professor]: Excuse me a moment, I need to use the potty.
  • No, Mommy doesn’t want to see how big your penis can get.
  • Please don't pull on Mommy's pubic hair to get yourself up off the ground (said while changing clothes).
  • Hand the poopy to Mommy.
  • Mommy told you to stop hitting her booby with the duck. Now you have to leave the bathroom and let Mommy take a bath.
  • Stop hitting me with your fork.
  • Books do not go in the refrigerator.
  • Who stuffed toilet paper down the sink drain?
  • Stop wrapping your brother in tape.
  • Bye-bye, poopoo!
  • Don’t headbutt the baby.
  • Don’t shoot the baby.
  • Can you please just eat your boogers?
  • No, please don't tear off my mole.
  • That's enough with the acrobatic nursing; you're hurting my boobies.
  • Get your shoe out of your mouth.
  • Can you hold on a second? I think Clara has poop on her hand.
  • Stop drinking out of the pirate’s head!
  • Please stop dropping banana into Mommy’s shirt.
  • That was so funny that if I hadn't been doing my pelvic floor exercises, I would have peed in my pants.
  • I can't understand you while you're holding your tongue.
  • I've told you I'm busy! I can't come eat you right now; you'll have to occupy yourself some other way until I am done!
  • If you fling your panties around one more time and hit your food with them, you’re going to be put in timeout.
  • No, I don’t want to suck on your fingers anymore.
  • No barking at the dinner table.
  • [Said father to son] No, No, No! It's not okay to hit other people's ding dongs!
  • Then why do you have dried poop on your butt?