Friday, September 4, 2009

What a weird summer!

In June, it wouldn't stop raining. July was okay but not quite summer-like. August, we got a few days of a heat wave. I almost had the hubby install the air conditioner. It was almost just too darn hot and then . . . back to the not quite summer-weather. It's actually been cold in the mornings.

Anyway, we're still trying to maximize the summer. We're off to the pool this afternoon. It's not really the best weather to go to the pool it's what we've got. And who knows? It may be the last time this season we get to go although I hope not.

It's uncertain what the rest of summer will bring weather wise but I'm so happy that at least the sun is out so that we can be out. There's nothing as frustrating for me and especially the kids as being cooped up in the house.

At the same time, I'm looking forward to fall. We've been taking a relaxed approach to homeschooling over the summer and we're ready to amp it up. I've got my Hooked on Phonics program (which I got at the thrift store for $15) ready to go t
o teach Z1 to read. He's excited and seems ready. I think we'll sign Z1 up for karate at
the YMCA and continue with the Kindermusik lessons we were taking (for really cheap by the way) at a local church. A friend of mine has his son taking bass lessons and I really wanted Z1 to give it a try to but at $35 per half hour, it's just not possible. I've been showing Z1 the basics of the piano and I'm going to post on Craig's List to see if I can barter tutoring or teaching crochet/knit for formal piano lessons-–or at least find something reasonable. I've got other ideas floating around too . . . I'm actually excited for "school" to start.

How are you getting ready for the fall??

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's not about the six pack anymore . . .

It's so much easier to talk about self-acceptance than it is to, you know, accept self. Particularly when it comes to the physical aspect of self.

I've struggled fiercely with a lack of self-esteem surrounding my looks for years now. It is only recently that I have begun to seriously work on building it. Sometimes it felt as if I was building it from nothing. I have old tapes of my mother's direct and indirect criticisms of my height, my weight, my skin's darkness and flaws, my "short neck" that I have had to force myself to stop playing--realizing that it was her issues that she was dealing with. And I have had to stop believing/paying attention to what society at large says is beautiful. Really, it's been a lot of work and I am still working at it. Some days I look in the mirror and I can't stand it. Other days, I have to do a double take at the absolutely stunning woman staring back at me. It's definitely a work in progress.

Being pregnant and having children has forced me to really tackle my issues of self-esteem regarding my appearance. See, I had convinced myself that even if I wasn't pretty at least I had a banging body. And that I did. In tight jeans and a blouse with a plunging neckline, I used to stop traffic. My measurements were impressive. My body, I felt, was my draw. My curves made up for what I thought lacked in the face. After a few years of drawing men to me simply because of my behind and breasts, I got so tired of being objectified and hurt. I hid behind modest clothes. Modest and drab clothes. I stopped placing as heavy an emphasis on the way I looked. Dropped the makeup. Dropped the jewelry and accessories. And then, because of my serious lack of self-esteem, convinced myself that men were no longer interested because I was hiding and no longer using my only "draw". Does that make sense? It did in my mind.
But it was at that time that I met my hubby who found me beautiful nonetheless and luckily, he didn't take advantage of my state of mind (like many other men before him had) but constantly tried to show me what he saw.

Anyway . . . I'm so serious when I say that I used to think in my mind, "Well, even though I'm not pretty at least I have a great body"--warped way of thinking but there it is. Having children has . . . changed my body. My "draw," if you will, is gone. I'm carrying extra weight. Things that were tight before are not anymore. And my stomach--well, let's just say that's my major problem area and I could very well call it the bane of my existence--or at least it feels that way sometimes. Buying a bathing suit is now a seriously time-consuming effort. And so I have had to face that damaging thought process head on in order to correct it. Because to believe that "all I had" was my body and that now it is gone would lead to some serious issues.

When I talk about working on healing one's mind, I know what I'm talking about. While I'm not super thrilled about this new body and I have no idea if my stomach will ever be flat again, I don't feel like all is lost. To the contrary, I'm okay psychologically. Yes, I am very self-conscious about my belly but I am also very conscious of the fact that my body and my face are not all that I have to offer. I'm not relying on these things as my draw.

I know body image issues are something common to women who've had children. It's only a very small percentage of us that look the same post-kids as pre-kids. And of that very small percentage, there's an even smaller percentage of mothers who haven't had to work their asses off to get back to that body.

You will find tons of articles mourning the loss of pre-pregnancy bodies. So many of us fall victim to the narrow ideas of beauty and attractiveness pushed on us by the media. So many of us wish we had our old body back. We add it to the "List of Things We Have Lost [by having children]". Ah, but for me, all that I have gained is so valuable. So priceless.

I won't front . . . I wouldn't mind having my pre-pregnancy six-pack back. I miss it at times when I see cute outfits that just wouldn't flatter what I've got going on now. It's tough sometimes embracing this new body, this woman's body. It's not girly anymore. I'm not a girl anymore. This baby belly, this body is here for a reason that I wouldn't trade for the tightest of bodies.

It totally helps to have a supportive hubby but at the same time, it's important to feel attractive to other men. And I'm realizing that these days, if I put a little effort into it, this not-so-flat belly doesn't keep men from noticing me. Doesn't keep me from being flyy.

I work out in hopes that the weight will eventually vanish but what keeps me motivated more so than dreams of re-gaining my pre-pregnancy body is dreams of living a long and healthy life. Dreams of watching my kids grow up and having grandchildren. And doing and enjoying all the things I have always wanted to do. I want to be limber and strong well into my old age. That grandma still practicing yoga and riding her Harley. Yes, I'm serious. I will own and ride a motorcycle yet!

So while I'm not bold enough to "let it all hang out" anymore, I'm bold in other ways and unabashedly proud of myself. Because it's been a lot of work to get here. A whole hell of a lot of work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What do you wipe with . . .

as a cloth diaperer?

I thought to blog about this because as I was changing Z2 (he is very and I mean very regular today) I noticed that the wipes are getting really thin and worn and I do get asked this question a lot.

It just makes sense that if you're reusing the diapers, you could reuse the wipes. Once you're done cleaning up, you just toss the wipe in the diaper pail along with the diaper and they all get laundered together.

Any place that sells cloth diapers will also sell cloth wipes. My personal favorite place for cloth diapering supplies is Abby's Lane. There, you'll find a large selection of relatively inexpensive wipes. (It's also where I got my diaper sprayer and wet bag.)

But me, being the frugal mama that I am, didn't buy wipes. Nope. I tried a few things. First, I made my own wipe solution. I would fold up Bounty paper towels and then soak them with the wipe solution. But it was really hard to separate the wet paper towels (and I was getting tired of folding all those darn paper towels) so I put the solution in a spray bottle. When it was time for a diaper change, I'd spray the paper towels with the solution. That worked for a few months until I got tired of making the wipe solution. Then I would just wet up a paper towel with plain water under the faucet. That worked for a while until I realized that it was just plain wasteful to be using all those paper towels. But I didn't want to come out of pocket for some cloth wipes. So . . . I went to Costco and bought a heap of plain white washcloths for about $10.00. I kept half the stack for use as actual washcloths. I took what was left, got out a pair of sharp scissors and proceeded to cut each washcloth in half. There was some fraying but after about 2 or 3 washes, it wasn't an issue any more. If I had a serger, I could have eliminated the fraying with just a quick stitch up the side. Also in my collection of wipes are cut-up flannel receiving blankets (which frayed very little) and those baby washcloths that you usually get a whole bunch of at baby showers. So it's a mishmash collection of wipes that I have but they work well--far better than disposable wipes. It generally takes about three or four disposable wipes to do the job of one cloth wipe.

When we're out and about though, I do use disposable wipes. Earlier on, I used cloth wipes and had a peri bottle (which came with my birth kit) with water in it. I'd wet the wipe and get the job done. But it was messy and wet. So now on the go, I use Seventh Generation wipes . I get the refill packaging since that travels a whole lot better and is cheaper. Using disposable wipes only when we're out means that I buy wipes maybe 3 times a year. Since I don't use them much, I keep them in a Ziploc bag to help keep them wet. They're also good for cleaning up sticky messes that children are bound to make (think spitting out half-chewed raisins).

So basically, just like every other aspect of cloth diapering, there are many ways to do it. You could go super cheap and make your own or add a little luxury to the mix. If you cloth diaper, using cloth wipes just seems like the most sensible way to go.

Z2 is almost out of diapers now so I don't think I'll need to invest any more into diapering him--at least I hope not. But if I do, I'll be on the lookout for creative ways to save money while getting the job done.

Do you ever wonder if you took a wrong turn

in life? Like what if you had made a different choice at that pivotal moment?

I feel that way sometimes about being a young mother. I got married at 22 and had my first child when I was 23, which is not way young but it is relatively young considering that most mothers I meet at the playground have infants and are in their mid to late thirties. Instead of pursuing my career or, more accurately, starting my career, I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom.

This year I'll be 28. I have no desire to go to any reunions although it's 10 years since I graduated from high school. I feel like I don't have anything to show for those 10 years except the fact that I'm fertile and can carry children to term and take reasonable care of them. Many of my counterparts are up and coming professionals now--lawyers, doctors, engineers and teachers. Getting on Facebook is a trip sometimes reading what everyone is doing at the moment. What could I write? Changing yet another diaper? Breaking up yet another sibling spat? Negotiating yet again with a cranky four year old what we will have for lunch when all he wants is cake?

Motherhood suits me and I enjoy being here full-time with my children. Really, I do. But sometimes I wonder how life would have been different if I'd made a different choice. I never did get to have my own motorcycle and wouldn't dream of doing that now with children. Never did get to travel and sure as hell don't want to with kids. Never did get all the partying out of my system. Never did get to live on my own. Never did get to where I thought I would be career-wise right now. You don't get the youthfulness and vibrancy of your 20s back and I'm spending most of it--if not all of it-- on other people. That's tough to handle sometimes.

I was grocery shopping at Whole Foods yesterday and saw two well-dressed, albeit weaved out, sisters clearly on their lunch break. It's hard to describe how I felt pushing my two babies, rocking Birkenstocks and trying to keep Z1 from destroying the flower display. I felt like they were looking at me sort of out of pity . . . or disdain. I know it was in my head. I know it was. They probably didn't even notice me. But I wanted to switch places for a minute--have on a nicely tailored suit, stockings, and heels on. Feel chic and successful.

I think I have another summer cold. It started off as allergies and I think progressed to a cold. I miss being able to just lie down and sleep because I'm tired and I need to so that my body can fully recuperate. I miss being able to just focus on me. And at a time when it seems like so many of my peers are super-focused on themselves, I can't help but feel a little jealousy and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Anyway, more good reasons to stay off Facebook.

ETA: Got the fall edition of Brain, Child Magazine and there was a section about what you've lost and what you've gained as a mother. It put a lot into perspective. Glad I subscribed.

Monday, August 31, 2009

You're Still Nursing?

Z2 made 20 months on the 29th of this month. I realized a few weeks back that I have been avoiding nursing him in public. Why? The reaction. Inevitably, someone will comment, "Wow, you're still nursing him?" which usually touches off a lively conversation about breastfeeding. Someone will invariably say they wanted to go as long as I am but "didn't have enough milk". Without a doubt, another will say, "Well, after 6 months, there's no real benefit to nursing . . . it's only comfort" which is usually a passive criticism of the fact that I'm still nursing. So subconsciously, I have been trying not to nurse in public. Z2 is old enough now where he can be distracted with games, toys and snacks so it's not imperative that I nurse him when he wants but it's just so telling of our society.

The World Health Organization recommends nursing up until 2 years of age and as long as mother and child are okay with it. Yet, it is still seen as an anomaly and very strange when folks see it.

I've always been one to be very open about nursing. I've nursed anywhere and everywhere and I don't believe in all these nursing cover up and nursing tents. I wear a shirt that I can easily pull up and a bra that easily pulls down. So it's discreet, if you will, but I'm not hiding. There's nothing to hide. I seriously and honestly believe that if Victoria Secret can run television ads and have billboards, no one should give me any flack about using my breasts for their intended purpose. Still, I am one of the very few folks I see nursing a child so big.

But I've been off my game about encouraging folks with breastfeeding. I've been quiet and just tried to keep the peace when folks come at me with stories about how "strong" and how "different" I am because I have been successful with breastfeeding since breastfeeding is oh.so.difficult. I always acknowledge that it is indeed hard for many in the beginning and so women can never overcome that initial challenge. Some women really do have supply issues or face the challenge of continuing a breastfeeding relationship while working. But I also acknowledge that there's a whole lot of sabotage going on including the taboo about nursing in public and making working mothers feel like they are not entitled to time to pump.

Now, me personally, I can't see myself nursing longer than a little over age two. I won't lie: I'm looking forward to having my body back. I want to do a detox and I really want to get serious about weight loss--which is something you can't really do while nursing. But I'm really annoyed with myself that I have let society's warped ideas about breastfeeding get to me.

Today, Z2 fell at the playground. Nothing too serious. I picked him up, dusted him off, and nursed him. Z2 loved it and was back at play in no time. I felt oddly . . . defiant.

Breastfeeding has become so political and such a huge arena for judging women as mothers. If you do breastfeed, you're heralded as a great mom but only if you don't do it too long or too openly or "militantly". If you don't, you could be seen as a liberated woman, undereducated or viewed as just not caring for your baby as much as the next woman. There's plenty, and I mean plenty, of judgment to go around which leaves most of us feeling like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Here's a great take on the issue from Baj4Life posted on her blog Navelgazing.

Image courtesy of http://www.breastfeedingcafe.com/newsletterwinter.htm

Are some obstacles never meant to be overcome?

I'm awake because I can't sleep. I'm having one of the worst allergy attacks ever. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one is a 10. I'm finding it hard to catch my breath between sneezes much less relax enough to fall asleep. I can't really pinpoint what triggered it although I suspect it's all the moving we've been doing that kicked up a lot of dust. Despite my incessant Swiffering and vacuuming, there still must be some dust particles in the air. The Claritin I take is not lessening the severity of this attack even slightly.

The other day as I was studying and journalling, I asked myself if allergies were something I was going to suffer with for the rest of my life. I surprised myself with the answer: it is. I honestly do not feel that I will be able to cure myself from allergies in this lifetime. It is one of those obstacles in my life that I will have to learn to live with victoriously. In other words, I don't believe that any amount of chanting will enable me to overcome my allergies. My mother struggles with asthma and allergies and so do many other members of my family. It's in the genes and there it remains. Just like no amount of chanting will add extra inches on to your height or change your ethnicity.

I thought that sounded a bit defeatist but it's actually in line with my world view and doesn't contradict any Buddhist philosophy. We are not promised a life of ease and comfort. All we are in control of really is our reaction to it. So yes, I've read lots of experiences where people power chanted their way through tough medical diagnoses and difficult situations. I believe it is possible to reverse your karma. But at the same time, I believe there are some things that simply won't change. There's no guarantee that endless amounts of chanting will bring about a change in the situation. But there is a guarantee that there will be a change in you.

The whole point of chanting is to bring out your inherent wisdom so that you may take correct action. A medical diagnosis giving you a few months to live could send you into despondency but chanting will give you the wisdom a) to figure out how to extend your days if at all possible and b) to make the most of whatever time you have left and c) to ensure the condition will not defeat you or bring down your "life condition" . . . in other words, you energy and life force will stay high.

I read a story in a book called Raising Cain, which, by the way, has nothing to do with Buddhist philosophy. I was moved by a story of a divorced mother of two boys who was terminally ill but was bravely preparing her sons for her death. She wasn't stone faced about it. She shared her sadness and her fears. She didn't wallow in self-pity. She was courageous and victorious and her sons recalled that as the single greatest gift she could have given them.

One thing I've learned about myself is that in many ways, my feet are planted firmly on the ground. So I'm not chanting so that the allergies magically vanish. I'm not into miracles, signs and wonders. I'm chanting so that at least I will somehow find a way to live with them. Live victoriously with them. Win. Because right now, I'm not. The allergies have me beat hands down. I've already done the diet changes. If one more smug know-it-all says, "You should eliminate x, y, z from you diet" I'll go crazy. I've tried various herbs, switched up the medicines. I vacuum and dust regularly. All to no avail. But the answer, I have to believe, is out there. I can't continue on this way.

Well, sitting up and writing has been more beneficial than lying in bed. I think the Claritin may now be starting to take effect although I can tell that the attack is not over and the Claritin is not going to bring it to an end. But I feel drowsy enough, exhausted enough where I may fall asleep. Hopefully.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm pretty dark-skinned

But I know I'm not the darkest skinned sister out there. My quest to find a nice foundation has been, to say the least, eye opening.

A few weeks back, I went and got my eyebrows threaded. I absolutely loved the results and it was no more painful ore expensive than waxing. After that, I headed on over to Macy's to visit the MAC counter. I ended up dropping a wad of cash on makeup (well, not that much but to me, it was a lot) and the most expensive item was foundation.

I used the foundation for about three days before I finally admitted that it was just not working. Maybe I should have gotten the oil control stuff too but, my goodness! After just a few hours, my face was so oily you could fry plantains on it. And the stuff rubbed off so easily. I used to wear this foundation a long time ago and I don't remember it being such a pain. Maybe I just had a higher tolerance for that kind of stuff . . . I don't know.

But what I think annoys me most is that the darkest color MAC sells (NW55) is still not quite as dark as me. I had to blend and blend and blend to get the makeup to look natural and even then, it didn't look all that natural.

Thank goodness for a lenient return policy. I was so glad to have that money back in hand.

So last Friday was rainy and my friends and I decided to go to the mall where there's plenty of space for the kids to run. I took the opportunity to go to Sephora so I could try Bare Essentials, which so many folks had recommended to me as a light, non-irritating makeup. I was dumbfounded to find that the darkest foundation they had was about three shades too light for me. And they have the nerve to call it "Deepest Dark".

I did discover the Makeup Forever line. My color is #185 which is the darkest color they sell. I didn't have to do much blending when I put it on and it provided great coverage. But it was about $40.00 so I didn't get it. Also, I understand now from trying so many different brands that another issue is that many of the make-ups do not match my red undertone. So while the #185 blended easily, it wasn't perfect.

But am I missing something? I know there are sisters as dark as I am and darker who wear foundation and such. Where do we go for options? Are there no options? I know these companies aren't necessarily catering to the darker-hued amongst us but it looks like they are making an effort . . .

The hubby, who's not really feeling me wearing makeup anyway, says it's a sign that I shouldn't be wearing makeup. LoL . . . it's almost not even possible for me to wear makeup!

Someone suggested Imani's line but it's not something you can try on before buying as it's only sold in pharmacies. Not to mention that my skin nowadays seems more prone to reacting to things than it used to be. Those few days of MAC foundation were not very kind to my skin. There's also Bobbi Brown, which is just as pricey as Makeup Forever.

I think I may just turn my attention to evening out my skin tone and minimizing the damage from acne but I'm still open to ideas. I want a quick and easy makeup routine that keeps my skin healthy and not too oily and that looks natural and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Is that possible?

Quick and Easy Eating out at Home Vegetarian Style

When I became a vegetarian years ago, one thing that eased the transition was mock meat. Basically, mock meats are generally soy-based analogues of meat so there is soy chicken, soy beef, soy fish, etc . . . The texture is usually very close although the taste might not be really close to the taste of the actual thing. Still, they are easy and accessible.

As I progressed in my vegetarian journey, I realized that these soy meats were too heavily processed and, moreover, there was too much soy in my diet. At one point, I cut out all soy from my diet which was a radical move (I was very dependent on soy), but it's back in our diet although in moderation. There are all kinds of horrible reports about soy out there so you need to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. My conclusion is everything in moderation--even the processed stuff because truth be told, it's tasty and easy to do which is just what I need sometimes. I regard dishes made with soy based mock meats as comfort food--not something you do everyday but something that's nice every once in a while.

Anyway, every so often, about twice a year I'd say, we go on down to China Town and get a bunch of packages of these mock meats from Mah Wah Healthy Vegetarian Foods. This is the place that all the vegetarian restaurants such as Vegetarian's Paradise 2 (VP2), which I used to just die for, get their mock meats from. They are pre-seasoned and usually come in their own sauce. We've been able to find some mock meats that don't have any soy (the list "Chinese mushroom" which is shiitake mushroom on the ingredient list) but not many. I mostly buy the one's made with the mushroom but they are not as flavorful as the soy-based ones because there's really no sauce. I buy a few soy-based ones for the hubby because, and I quote, he "likes sauce"

So here's a quick and tasty dish I make with mock beef (doesn't matter if it's teriyaki or pepper flavored, soy based or mushroom--whatever flavor will do)

You'll need:
one package vegetarian mock meat
one medium onion
one green pepper
one red pepper
2 cups frozen mixed vegetable
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth (or 1 1/2 cups water + 1 tsp. vegetable broth powder)
pat of margarine (Earth Balance now makes a soy-free version) or herb-infused olive oil
olive oil
pepper and salt to taste

What to do:
First, put hot water on to boil or bring your vegetable broth up to a boil.

Dice up the mock meat into small pieces (I find that this stretches the package which is relatively small and is more palatable, i.e. no huge chunks of fake meat in your mouth). Brown the mock meat pieces in olive oil. Meanwhile, dice onions and peppers. Remove mock meat from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside Add diced onions and peppers to the pan and saute in oil until softened. Add mixed vegetables and saute till they are defrosted. Add couscous to the pan. Add the hot water + veggie broth powder or vegetable broth and margarine or herb-infused olive oil. Turn off the heat. Add salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate everything and then cover for 2-3 minutes until the couscous absorbs all the water. Add your browned mock meat and stir everything up so it's all evenly distributed.

This takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. I don't have to soak any beans or anything so I find I make this dish when I've forgotten to do so or when we've been out all day and I need to make something satisfying in a hurry.

I also make a similar dish but instead of couscous, I use noodles (actually, whole wheat spaghetti because it's cheaper) instead of couscous and the sauce from the General Tso's tofu recipe. Z2 especially loves it like this.

If you read this blog, you know we don't eat out a lot. And with the recent purchase of a mattress, platform bed and toddler bed for Z1, we probably won't go out to eat for quite a while. I think this dish could actually be served in a restaurant and so it's nice in that way too. Like eating out at home.

Anyway, I did the blog at the prompting of my sister-in-law who enjoyed the dish when she came to visit. Enjoy!!
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