Hello Monday. Hello Routine. Sort of . . .

We’re back.  Back from our week-long road trip.  Back to our summer routine.  And most importantly, back to our eating routines.

Let me preface this post by saying, we had an absolutely amazing time away.  We got to see and do things that we will take with us for a long time to come.  The kids were absolutely amazing and for the first time ever, we didn’t use a stroller!!!  The little one did a LOT of walking, but she did it without complaint!

But, there is a certain comfort in getting back home, and getting back into routine.

One thing I do like to do is to menu plan for the week ahead.  It’s a habit that forces me, on a Sunday morning before we go the market/grocery store/specialty stores to think about what we have going on in the week ahead and to make sure that we achieve some sort of balance in what we eat.

I also really like to ensure that we always have a nice chicken to roast for dinner on Monday night.  Really, who doesn’t love a roast chicken?  Whatever we don’t eat for dinner on Monday nights gets chopped up, portioned out, and frozen to be used in lunches for the Husband and myself during the week.  And after dinner is cleaned up, and the kids are getting ready for bed, I get out the crcok pot and start a batch of bone broth with all the bones from the chicken.

After all the pizza and other questionably food we’ve all consumed over the last week, I can assuredly say I am absolutely CRAVING a nice roast chicken tonight!!!

A Water Park, Abject Terror, and Learning to Go With the Flow (Literally)

So we stopped at the Kalahari Water Park for one day this week as part of our family road trip  The Husband had looked into it, booked it, and was super excited to see the kids go nuts in the largest waterpark in the US.  I have to admit, I was pretty excited too; I thought I really liked waterslides.

Thought being the operative word.

As we entered the park, I did a quick scan of all the slides, and settled on one we could all do as a family.  The Rippling Rhino.  I envisioned a gentle ride; not too fast, gentle curves, lots of smiles and giggles from the kids.  We climbed the stairs up to the start of the slide, hopped into the specialty raft, and were launched into a pitch black tunnel.  The sharp turns had us rocking from side to side, the current of the water was spinning the raft around, and there were bumps and drops that literally had my heart leaping out of my chest.

In the back of my mind, I knew that quite literally, there had to be light at the end of the tunnel.  That the ride would come to an end, there would be lots of giggles, and my heart rate would return to normal.  But that did NOTHING to quell the panic I was feeling.

And just when I thought I couldn’t take another second of the ride, I caught a glimmer of light, and before I knew it, we were back into daylight, the ride was over, there were lots of giggles from everyone, and the kids raced off to try a different slide.  But my panic didn’t really subside.

The same scenario repeated itself over and over again for the next two hours.  And again the next morning when we got up and did it all over again.

I could not just “go with the flow”, enjoy the twists, turns and bumps in the slides, especially when I had no idea what was coming up next, and I certainly did not find any sweetness in the moment when the darkness gave way to light.

And so, the slides at the Kalahari Water Park have become a metaphor for my life.  I don’t like going with the flow, I really don’t like NOT knowing what’s coming up next, and rather than enjoy the sweetness that comes from making it through a difficult time, I prefer to re-group and strategize on how to be best prepared for whatever might come my way next.

Evidently, I have some work to do . . .

In the meantime, the kids are already asking when we can go back.

Is Today Tomorrow?

We left today on a little road trip.  It’s the Husband’s 40th and so, in his honour, we’re off to see some of his favourite MLB teams in action.  Neither of my kids particularly like the concept of leaving on a trip.  Once we get there, they love being away.  And there are usually tears when it’s time to come back home again.

So, this past week, the little one has been asking lots of questions about when we’ll be leaving, how many days until we leave, do we have to leave???

And then this morning, I heard my favourite phrase of hers these days, “Is today tomorrow?”.

Yes, yes, it is sweetie.

Today IS tomorrow.

And on that note, I’m going to go out and enjoy all that this tomorrow has to bring.

Passion . . . And Banana Muffins

So, on my trip to Michael’s the other day, I came close to meeting my goal and only bought a few things other than the picture frame i needed.  Really.  I promise.  I got a few picture frames (they were buy one get one free . . . I got a few, and now I can put the finishing touches on a few other areas of my house!), a few craft kits for the kids, and a colouring book.  And I got this:

IMG_3131

As a little kid, I ADORED Julia Child.  I could sit and watch her cook for what seemed like hours and truth be told, I still could . . . sadly I’ve tried to get my kids to watch, and they’re just not that into it.  Anyway, I saw this, and figured it was exactly what I needed to hang in my office space; not just as a constant reminder to me to keep doing the things that I love, but also as a parent to keep encouraging the kids to find things in life that they are truly passionate about.

Now, while the kids don’t share my love of Julia, they DO love to cook.  Despite the fact that I do menu plan and post the breakfast and dinner “menus” for the week on the fridge on Sunday morning, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t get asked by my son, “What are we going to eat, Mom???”.  While we do try and stick to a paleo-ish diet, there is one breakfast staple for the kids that is decidedly NOT paleo and really not all that healthy.  So why do I let them have it so often???  Well, because it’s the recipe that means so much to me, the one that I had to go Michael’s to get the frame for, and quite frankly, if this is the worst they’re going to have in a week, it’s not sooooooo bad.  The recipe came from my grandmother’s Art Gala cookbook which was put together by the lady volunteers at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in 1970.  I’ve made lots of changes through the years to the recipe, so here it is as I make it:

Kids' Banana Muffins

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 ripe bananas

3 cups flour

2tsp baking soda

2tsp banilla

(chocolate chips)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners
  2. Cream butter and sugar – I do this in my KitchenAid and I cream them until the mixture is really light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs and beat again until everything is really well mixed.
  4. Add in the bananas – if you are using a KitchenAid, just peel them and throw them in – if you’re doing it by hand, mash them up with a fork on a plate first then add them in.  Give everything a good mix again
  5. Add in the banking soda, vanilla and flour and mix one last time
  6. The secret ingredient that we then add in is a few chocolate chips – maybe about 1/3 of a cup in total.  We use the Enjoy Life brand of chips.
  7. Divide the batter amongst the muffin cups and bake for about 30 minutes or until they are golden brown and spring back to the touch.
  8. While the muffins are baking the kids always get a little bowl with a few chocolate chips to “eat while the muffins are baking” . . . this just may be why they like making these so much!!

No Use in Crying over a Spilt Smoothie

Our usual morning routine is to get the kids eating breakfast, which includes a small glass of smoothie, while the Husband and I get organized for the day.  For some reason, a long time ago, the Husband and I thought it would make the smoothie more “fun” for the kids (read get them to drink it with less prodding by us) if we let them have a straw or two in their smoothie cup.

This morning, while I was in the kitchen making my breakfast, the little one managed to use both her straws to overturn her glass and spill her entire smoothie across the breakfast table.  In retrospect, it’s kind of remarkable that this doesn’t happen more often.  But, since it is a relatively rare event, the poor thing was horrified and on the verge of tears – so rather than respond with anger and/or annoyance, I looked at her and calmly said “It’s ok.  Really.  We all make mistakes.  Even mommy makes mistakes”.  To which she replied “What????  You make mistakes?”.

The subject of resilience has come up in my reading a lot this week; and the idea that the way parenting has evolved, we now try to shield our kids from experiencing anything that could be remotely negative or upsetting.  And as such, we’re not teaching them how to recover from making mistakes or how to pick themselves up after life throws them a curveball.

As much as I’ve tried to teach my kids the value of hard work, and how great it feels when you achieve a goal, I have clearly not shown them nearly enough just how many mistakes we (I) all make in a day; and more importantly, how we (I) work to rectify those mistakes.  And so, I will set about explaining to the little one, that while sitting down and having a good cry over a spilt smoothie might seem like the right thing to do, you can derive infinitely more satisfaction from cleaning up the mess and getting on with the day.

Now . . . back to those smoothies.  Yes, we do make the kids drink a smoothie every day.  We make enough so that each kid gets a small glass and the Husband and I get a large glass.  We use a Vitamix blender, but have also had a Blendtec and a Black and Decker blender along the way.  We use kefir as a base for our smoothies – but also add in some orange juice.  The Husband typically makes the smoothie, so he’s the one who knows all the ins and outs of what goes into it – but it’s usually a banana or two, an orange, an apple, and then whatever fruit we have in the fridge, and/or frozen organic berries to round it out.

Delay

Every Tuesday, I meet with this diabolical amazing Coach to work one-on-one on my weightlifting skills and other assorted Crossfit movements.  While the work we do on Tuesdays is usually pretty intense, as a former figure skater, spending a few hours perfecting movement patterns is pretty much right up my ally.  The fact that my Coach is absolutely fantastic at what he does and has a way of motivating me / making our sessions rewarding (fun) doesn’t hurt either.  But I digress.

A busy weekend, too little sleep, and possibly a drink or two more than I would normally consume, left me a little lacking in the energy department for my session with the Coach today. Despite that, we did get in some good work . . . all of which seemed to keep coming back to the concept of “Delay”.

A while ago, I read a really good blog post about The Power of Delay that has stuck with me ever since (actually, a lot of the posts on Zen Habits are fantastic and have stuck with me; you should definitely check out his blog).  And as I worked on the concept of delaying my movements in the gym in order to obtain maximal power, I was reminded of aforementioned post (sorry Coach, I was thinking about things other than just my lifts).  Yes, forcing ourselves to delay the thrill of instant gratification can be a wonderful way to break bad habits and cement new ones.  But as mulled it over, it came to me:  We do not gain power in/over our lives when we allow ourselves to respond with knee-jerk reactions.  Rather, it is in the delay and mindful approach to the situations life throws at us, that we can achieve maximal power in our lives.

So, while I could run out and avoid dealing with my feelings of disappointment over not being 100% “there” in the gym, and distract myself by trying to maniacally tick things off my to-do list, I’m going to delay.  And spend some time in my happy place . . . the kitchen.

Up first, I’m going to make some kale chips as a snack for the kids for when the get home from camp.  Yeah, I realize how ridiculous that sounds.  What kid actually likes kale chips; and good god, what mother makes them as a TREAT for their kids?????  Fact is, my kids can be picky eaters but for whatever reason, they love these chips.  I love that they eat them but don’t necessarily love the green dust that gets left on my kitchen floor when they’re done eating.  Anyway, see if your little ones like them . . . or maybe, if you like them.  I think they’re pretty good myself and even the Husband can’t seem to get enough of them . . .

My Version of Kale Chips

  • Servings: ???
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1-2 bunches of Kale

Olive oil

Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 and line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper/tin foil/silpats
  2. Wash the kale and pat dry.
  3. Cut out the big stems from the centre of each kale leaf and tear or chop the remaining part of the leaf into bit-sized pieces
  4. I throw all my kale into a big bowl and drizzle 2-3tbs of olive oil over it.  Use your hands, get messy (my kids LOVE to do this part) and mix up the kale and oil so that all the kale is nicely coated with oil.  Depending on how much kale you use, you might want to add a little more oil.
  5. Spread the kale onto the baking sheets; try to make sure that the leaves don’t overlap much and that they are all in a single layer.  Again, you may need more cookie sheets depending on how much kale you used.
  6. Sprinkle the kale with salt and put them in the oven.
  7. They are done when they are crispy to the touch.  Much like the theme of this post, it is best to delay and not try to increase the temperature of the oven to get them to cook faster if it seems like things are moving slowly.  I find it takes about 1/2 an hour in my oven, but it took about 45mins to get them nice and crispy in the oven at the cottage last week, so the cooking time may vary!

Finishing Touches

Coupled with my desire to clean up/out my house is a desire to really make it our “home”.  Or, as my daughter would say “Mommy, you need to put on the finishing touches”.

One of these little touches that I want to add to my kitchen is a framed copy of one of my family’s staple recipes.  It holds a very special place my heart, and I think it already does for my kids too.  So, as my printer was warming up to scan the recipe, I started to poke around on the internet.  And in looking though Brene Brown’s blog, I came across this quote from Harriet Lerner that stopped me in my tracks:

“It is not fear that stops you from doing the brave and true thing in your daily life. Rather, the problem is avoidance. You want to feel comfortable so you avoid doing or saying the thing that will evoke fear and other difficult emotions. Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run but, it will never make you less afraid.”

I’ve avoided a lot over the last few years.  I’ve found a LOT of comfort in the aisles of Target and Loblaws and the corridors of Yorkdale.  I told myself, and the unbelievably understanding Husband that we needed all these things.  The kids NEED enough clothes to allow for three changes of clothes per day and the possibility that laundry only gets done once a week; I NEED to have enough toys/crafts/things to do with the kids in the event that one or both get sick and we’re stuck inside without cable and I need to amuse them; our pantry/storage room MUST have enough back up supplies in it that we can go at least a month, if not longer, without visiting a grocery store.  It was a good strategy . . . in that it worked for me for a long time.  But it would appear that I finally got tired of running.

I have lots of theories as to why I needed/wanted to avoid really dealing with the events of the past few years.  And several theories as to what has lead me to the place I find myself in today (thank you Crossfit).  But rather than get into that now, I think I’m going to take my newly-scanned recipe to Michael’s and find a frame for it so that I can finally put those finishing touches on my kitchen.  And for the first time in a long time . . . I can safely say . . . that’s all I am going to come home with!

“You’re Done With That?”

This morning, my daughter sat on the steps leading down to our basement watching me shovel piles of soon to be discarded ephemera amassed over the last 20 years into garbage bags, questioning why I was getting rid of so many “treasures”.

“Why, Mommy?”  She asked.  “Is it because you’ve had it for long enough?”

And just like that, she hit the nail on the head.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly picking through my house; tackling small jobs like cleaning out the kids’ closets of clothes that no longer fit, cleaning out the medicine cabinet of meds that are about to expire, and weeding out the pantry for staples that have passed their prime.

But at the end of the week, I started in on my “BIG” job; cleaning out the basement.  Realistically, this shouldn’t be such a big job.  When we re-did our basement 2 years ago, I cleaned out lots of stuff we no longer needed.  But somehow, we still managed to have bin after bin filled with “important” stuff.  And so, at 6am this morning, I started to go through the bins.

And by 8am when my daughter came down to check on me and what I was doing, she found me surrounded by piles of stuff that I just no longer needed to hold on to.  Sure, I kept some things; but as for the majority of it all . . . well, I finally realized that the memories of things, events, were far sweeter than the physical mementos I had been holding on to for so long.  And with that realization, I found the courage to let it go.

So yes, my dear sweet girl, “I have had it for long enough”.

I Heart Fridays

From the start to finish, Fridays are hands down the best day of the week in our house.  They start with my favourite breakfast (more on that in a minute) and usually end with a pizza party involving a collection of friends and family.  In between there’s usually a punishing/fantastic workout at the hands of my coach/trainer, an amazing yoga class with the best yoga teacher ever, and a series of errands that have to get done to set us up for the weekend.

So, getting back to my favourite breakfast.  I used to be big.  Pituitary tumours and the hormonal chaos they can cause combined with 2 pregnancies and the stress of the brain tumour left me squarely on the heavy side of things.  It wasn’t good, and I wasn’t happy about it.  So I went back to the gym.  And I worked my heart out on the elliptical machine.  I went for walks at night.  And I tried to watch what I ate.  And I had a little bit of success.  Things were looking up.

Then, one of the trainers at my gym convinced me to try a crossfit style class.  One class in and I was hooked.  My first class happened to be in January when my now coach/trainer was starting up a real food challenge for all the ladies in the class.  And through his daily emails filled with advice, research, and ideas on the real food movement and a more paleo lifestyle, I started to make a LOT of changes in the way we eat in our family.

Fastforward to today . . . I’m much smaller, but more importantly, FAR stronger, and as an added bonus, I have WAY more energy.  Oh, and I also healed from my surgery better and faster than the doctors though possible.  But I digress.

As the people around have seen me change shape, I get asked a LOT about what I eat.  And it seems that I get asked most about breakfast.  My thoroughly unscientific research would indicate that most women don’t want to eat tons of protein every morning when they wake up.  Myself included.  So . . . Friday’s I break from my usual breakfast routine and make my favourite banana pancakes.  Maybe you’ll like them as much as I do . . . but I will say that neither the kids nor my husband particularly care for them . . . which is their loss, as far as I’m concerned.  There are a million recipes for this kind of pancake on the web . . . this just happens to be how I make them . . .

Paleo Banana Pancakes

  • Servings: 1-@
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana (as ripe or unripe as you like)
  • Coconut oil or butter for the pan

Directions

  1. Set the pan on medium heat and add in a generous teaspoon or so of coconut oil or butter.
  2. While the fat is melting in the pan, throw the eggs and the banana into a blender and blend until everything is combined.  If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can add in a teaspoon of vanilla too).
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and cook just like you would a regular pancake (i.e. flip them over when the bottoms start to brown).  Practically speaking, it’s easier to make the batter into several smaller pancakes.  But, since I make these just for myself, I pour the entire thing into one giant pancake; I just divide it into 4 when it comes time to flip it.  Yup, it’s messy, but it tastes the same, so I don’t mind.

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