The Hardest to Learn was the Least Complicated

Uh huh.  My theme song of the day courtesy of the Indigo Girls.  Look . . . I heard them this summer on the On Being podcast, I thought it was an awesome interview, it brought back a lot of happy summer camp memories (all girls’ camp in the early 90’s = many happy memories that include Indigo Girls songs), and they’ve been part of my (non-gym) set list ever since.

So today . . . this song came on.  And it hit me.  Upside the head.

I’ve been making things wayyyyyyyyyy too complicated for myself.  I’m talking about family dinners, by the way.

My attempt at a healthy-make ahead (crock pot) meal that involved chicken, dijon mustard and maple syrup . . . served with a side of pureed cauliflower.  An epic fail on my part.  No one, not even the Husband liked it.

So tonight . . . back to basics.  Fish sticks (gluten free, nut free, soy free, dairy free, hormone free  . . . . . . . . .), broccoli and mac and cheese.

Everyone ate it.  No one complained (ok, the older one doesn’t exactly like mac and cheese, so he had to be encouraged/forced to eat a few bites) but otherwise, a happy, relaxed dinner.  And it was all ready in under 30 minutes.

Lesson learned.

Question is . . . can I apply this lesson in the rest of my life?????????

Oh, and mac and cheese recipe to follow . . . running out to the little one’s curriculum night at school and the older one’s hockey . . .

Hope RX’D

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I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Kelly Anne Graham this weekend at the Crossfit competition.  She is an absolutely amazing woman who has put together an absolutely amazing book.  She, herself, was a Masters Crossfit Games athlete who suffered a back injury that ended her career as an elite athlete, and her ability to Crossfit.  Unable and unwilling to leave the Crossfit community behind, she has spent the last year recovering and assembling this book of stories written by who have been, for lack of a better term, “saved” by Crossfit (I will note she uses the term Functional Fitness, but for brevity’s sake, I’m going with Crossfit).

As I read through each of the stories in this book yesterday and again today, I was struck by the similarities in each of them; and how they mirror my own story.  After suffering a major setback/injury/health issue, these survivors, happened upon a Crossfit box, slowly started to expand their physical capabilities, and overtime, realized that Crossfit had completely changed their lives for the better.

There are a lot of people that hate Crossfit.  For whatever reason, they don’t believe in the concept, the methodology or the programming of the workouts; they think it’s a surefire way to injure yourself, possibly gravely; and so they turn their nose up at the entire concept.

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that there are aspects of Crossfit that I don’t particularly agree with; and I do see that there is the potential (AS THERE IS WITH ALL ATHLETIC ENDEAVOURS) for injury.  But rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, I have chosen to make informed choices about how, where, and with whom I Crossfit . . . and I can say with 100% certainty that Crossfit “saved” me.

Why???  Well, engaging in Crossfit has made me stronger.  I know now that I’m physically strong enough to conquer what ever gets thrown in my way.  I mean that in the literal sense; I am strong enough to physically get out of danger.  But also in the sense that I know I am strong enough to handle any other health crises that might come my way.

Engaging in Crossfit has taught me how to pace myself.  As a kid, my nickname as “Have-it-all-Nancy”.  I wanted to be, do, have everything.  At once.  I ran around so much, doing so much, trying to be so much, that I inevitably crashed, usually getting pretty sick for a few weeks at a time.  Now I know that, just like in a long WOD (workout of the day), where you can’t give 100% through the entire workout, I can’t do, be, or give 100% all the time.

And most of all, engaging in Crossfit has taught me the value, beauty, and love that comes with being part of a community.  I grew up as a figure skater.  I have tried my hand at aerobics, spinning, boxing, yoga, and just regular gym workouts.  But in none of those activities do you find a supportive and welcoming community like you do at a Crossfit box.  Like I said in my post yesterday, you will likely find the most competitive people you will ever meet at a Crossfit box/competition, but they will also be the first people to cheer you on, support you, and push you to new heights.

So for all the people that aren’t so keen on Crossfit . . . pick up a copy of this book.  Read a few of the stories.  Try and put your assumptions about Crossfit aside.  And try to see just what an amazing sport this can be.

PS . . . I have also managed to find a single amazing, magical yoga teacher and several wonderful people with whom to practice yoga . . . so when I refer to yoga above, I’m talking about the big group yoga classes I engaged in earlier in my life . . .

On that note, I was hoping to have an amazing recipe to share  . . . but I made it for the family for dinner.

And no one liked it.

Back to the drawing board.

If Not Now, Then When?

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I spent the day yesterday at a Crossfit competition.  In the weeks/days leading up to these competitions, I always question my sanity for signing up; with the workouts not being revealed until the day before/day of of the competition, there is the anxiety of wondering if you’ll be given a movement you can’t do; you hope that you are injury-free and in good physical condition come the day of the competition; and there is the general performance anxiety and hope that you don’t let your teammates down.

You will find some of the MOST competitive people you have ever encountered at a Crossfit competition.  But the funny thing is, as competitive as they may be, it’s also the place you are MOST likely to find complete strangers cheering you on, giving you a high five, and complementing you on your performance.  And if that’s what coming from your fellow competitors, you should see the encouragement that you get from your teammates.  It’s an experience like no other.  And it’s that experience that keeps us/me signing up for these competitions.

Anyway, I spent the day yesterday at one of these competitions with 5 amazing teammates, another team of 6 amazing friends, and even the Coach came by to cheer us on/give some sage advice.  We were tested physically, but overall had a remarkable day filled with personal and team achievements.

The quote, “If not now, then when”, was painted across an entire wall of the gym we were at yesterday.  I was drawn to it; not only because it represented the sentiment for the day; but because it’s such a good motto for life in general.

Several friends have been raving about the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I bought a copy and started reading it this morning.  It is an interesting book.  And echoes a lot of the sentiments I’ve been feeling about my house in general over these past few months.  I especially liked the concept of examining each item in your house in terms of what it adds to your life today.

I’ve been trying to tidy up my house for months.  I’ve had no trouble getting rid of things like my high school band folder (complete with sheet music for the Lion King and Mario Brothers . . . in fact, how that survived this long in my possession is inexplicable).  I’ve also been quite happy to get rid of my “fat” clothes, bulky, “big plastic” baby accessories things, and broken/incomplete toys.  What I can’t seem to bring myself to do is tidy up the really loved baby/little kid stuff.  I have a huge bin filled with the “important” clothes that I’ve kept from my kids wardrobes through the years.  I have another huge bin filled with the “important” baby toys.  And I’m well on my way to filling another huge bin with my most favourite books – the only reason it isn’t full yet is because I just can’t bring myself to take all the baby books OUT of the kids’ rooms yet.  Yup, that’s right, the Son has baby books shelved alongside chapter books in his room right now.

I understand that I’m going through, what one of the heads of my daughter’s school called a “big transition”.  The kids are no longer babies, they don’t need me to take care of everything for them, and I find myself really missing those days of having a toddler running around the house.  I’m holding on to all of those memories by holding on to all of the stuff of those years.

Logically, I know that I will have the courage to dispose of all this stuff eventually.  And so, I’m going to try my very best to live this quote this week; with each item I look at as I tidy my house, I will think of what joy it brings to me, but I’m also going to ask myself . . . if it’s eventually going to be discarded, if not now, then when???

Ps.  I found the image at the top of this post on this blog.  In fairness – I did an image search, liked this one the best . . . and here it is . . . I’m sure it’s an interesting blog!

Occupation: __________________

This September really felt like a new year for me.  For the first time since the surgery, feeling no longer like I was in recovery mode (physically or mentally), and with the kids both in school a bit longer, I faced every stay-at-home mom’s dilemma . . .without really littles ones to take care of each moment of the day, what is my job now?

This week, I’ve been working on filling out all the application forms for schools for my son for next year.  And on each one, I’m asked to state my occupation.  Hmmmmmmmmm.  What do you call what I do each day?

And then, early this morning (5am to be exact), my son came into our room.  Finding the Husband still asleep in bed, he asked, “Why isn’t daddy at the gym”.  A valid question as the Husband is usually up and out the door long before 5.  When I explained to him that daddy skipped the gym this morning so that he could go into work extra early, he asked “Is daddy’s work fun”.  In the time it took me to formulate an answer he looked at me and said:

“Mommy, I think you should work at Costco.  Or Walmart.  Or Starbucks.  Because you really like those stores”.

Ok.  So on one hand, I am really pleased that at the tender age of 6, my son is abstractly aware that you should, at a minimum, enjoy what you do for work.  On the other hand, I’m disappointed in myself in that my son/kids have NO clear understanding that mommy used to have a job just like daddy’s before he/they came along; a job that I loved.  (I think I’ll leave the fact that my weekly shopping trips were more likely to be to Holts than Costco or Walmart out though . . .).

And why exactly do I care so much about this???  I think it’s because I want them to know that in life, we always have choices.  The Husband and I made choices before the kids came along to ensure that me staying home was a viable choice for our family.  I made a choice to find new things that I LOVE to do and that keep me feeling whole as a human without going back into the corporate world.  And I especially want them to know that there are no right or wrong choices; in life, all we can do is make the best choice for ourselves given where we are at that moment in our lives.

Which still leaves me unclear as to what I should state as my current occupation . . . oh the choices . . . .

And now for the segue into the recipe . . . the one area in which my children have NO choice is over what they eat for dinner.  I do take into consideration their likes and dislikes when I do my menu planning . . . but when one kid could subsist on pasta and veggies alone, and the other on steak and pork products . . . menu planning can get a bit tricky.

So . . . this week, I made a quick and easy meal that satisfied BOTH kids.  Meatballs.  Because I use ketchup in these meatballs, they are a bit sweet.  Yes, they still taste great in a pasta sauce, but they are also great on their own.  Which means that I can serve them plain with a side of veggies, and this week, I even made up some pasta (just tossed with olive oil) to go on the side too.  My son ate about 7 meatballs . . . my daughter 2.  These freeze fantastically – hence the reason I make such a large batch.  You can easily halve this to make dinner for the family for just one night.  This recipe is based on the meatball recipe from Elana’s Pantry . . .

Easy Baked Meatballs

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2lbs ground beef

2 eggs

4tbs ketchup

4tbs dijon mustard

2tbs coconut flour

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ketchup and mustard.
  3. Add in the coconut flour and salt & pepper and again whisk well.  The mixture will become fluffier the more you mix.
  4. Add in the ground beef.  This is where things get messy – use your hands and combine the meat with the egg mixture until everything is really well mixed together.
  5. I use an ice cream scoop (equal to about 1/8 cup) to portion out the meatballs on the tray.  You could also hand roll the meatballs.  And feel free to make them as big or as little as you’d like.
  6. Bake the meatballs for about 25minutes or until they are cooked through (break one open to check).

*you can get creative with this recipe too – add in garlic or some diced onion/shallot to make it a more traditional meatball recipe . . . and for that matter, you could use tomato paste instead of ketchup.

Kindness Part II

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness since our little study of Cinderella last week.  It’s a theme that came up again Peter Pan over the weekend, and it’s a theme that seems to pop up in a number of the stories we’ll be looking at over the next few weeks.

Earlier today, a friend commented on my post saying that if he “had to choose one character trait to instil in (his) children, it would be kindness”.

I agree completely.

But how do we do that in this day and age where it seems that the more competitive you are at something, the better you are as a human; if you’re out to win at all costs, what room is there for kindness?

For now, the Husband and I can model kindness to our kids in how we treat each other, how we treat them, and how we treat others.  And I can only hope that the lessons the kids learn from watching us now, and from our talks about the power that can flow from being a kind person, will last them into their teen years . . . . and beyond.

Now, while I’m on the subject of kindness, I practiced some kindness towards myself yesterday.  As much as I wanted a less hectic after-school schedule this year, it seems like we’re getting home even later from programs and lessons than ever before.  Family dinners are important to the Husband and I – we both grew up eating as a family each night – and prepared meals from the grocery store don’t exactly fit into our health-ier eating plan.  Which means I’m finding myself having to get more delft at menu planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.

This week, I accepted that we don’t get home from the little one’s dance classes until about 5:45.  We generally eat at 6.  Which leaves me 15 minutes to get a meal on the table . . . So, thanks to a little inspiration from a friend, yesterday morning saw me bringing out the crockpot and “making” dinner at 7 in the morning.  When we ran in the door at 5:45, all I had to do was get the broccoli steaming (I had it prepped and ready on the stove) and we were ready to eat at 6.  Perfection!!!

Everyone enjoyed this dish.  It is basically pork tenderloin with homemade applesauce all cooked in one pot!  I served it with a side of broccoli – next time I might serve it over pureed cauliflower.  It would be good with mashed sweet potato too!

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin with Apples

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 pork tenderloins of approximately the same size

2 cups bone broth (aka chicken stock – I use my own, but you could use a low-sodium store bought stock)

4 apples peeled and cored (you could leave the peels on if you are short on time)

1 onion sliced

Salt and Pepper

Directions

  1. Use a bit of butter/olive oil/coconut oil to grease the bottom of the crockpot
  2. Put the sliced onions in the bottom of the crockpot
  3. Lay the 2 pork tenderloins on top of the onions.
  4. Throw the apples in over top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the broth over the pork.
  6. Put the lid on and simmer the pork for about 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

Cinderella Ate my Daughter. And I’m Ok With That.

My daughter loves the Disney Princesses.  She loves the movies.  She loves reading stories about them.  She loves playing with toys themed around the Princesses.  And she loves to dress up in Princess dresses.

And I’ve always found it pretty adorable.  And I’ve clearly encouraged it – after all, I do buy most of the toys/books/games that come into our house.

But with every Princess-themed item that comes into our house, I will admit, I have a momentary twinge of guilt, that voice in the back of my mind – likely honed in my 13 years of all-girls education – asking me why I’m perpetuating the gender divide by buying into all things pink and sparkly for my daughter.  I will even admit that the first princess-themed items that my daughter received were themed to Belle – precisely because of that voice – I rationalized that a book-loving princess couldn’t be all bad.

But as the kids and I looked at Cinderella this week, I couldn’t help but wonder, why there is so much angst about our daughters playing princesses.

As we read all 3 versions of Cinderella (Perrault, Hewet & Brothers Grimm), it became abundantly clear that it was not the Prince that saved her from her life as a servant to her step-mother and step-sisters, it was her kindness.  And it is in fact the moral of the first two versions of the story that kindness and strength of character are worth far more than beauty ever can be.

Isn’t this exactly the sort of life lesson I want to impart to my daughter?  Don’t I want her to grow up thinking that good things come to those who are good and work hard.  And if going to a ball and wearing a gorgeous dress and fantastic shoes happen to be the reward for a job well done, then so be it.

And with this revelation, I hope that voice in my head has been silenced; that voice that says I should feel guilty for so willingly embracing all things Princess.

But it’s also got me wondering.  If I can simultaneously buy into the Princess mystique for my daughter while exposing her to toys that bend gender barriers (toys like Goldieblox that introduce girls to the joys of engineering) and books that promote non-traditional roles for girls (books like Rosie Revere, Engineer), why can’t I do the same for my son?  Where are the toys and books that glorify housekeeping and cooking and child-rearing as exciting roles for males?

But I digress.  This unit on Disney is quickly become more fascinating, both for me and the kids, than I ever thought possible.  I can’t wait for this week to start as we move away from Cinderella to learn more about Peter Pan and maybe even touch on Alice in Wonderland; my two favourite children’s stories of all time.

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Have Courage and Be Kind

Everything has been going so well this week, and with the Husband out for a work dinner on Wednesday night, I decided to do something a little crazy, and let the kids stay up a little later than normal and watch a movie with me.

Specifically, I let them stay up to watch the live-action version of Cinderella.  We had been reading about the cartoon version of Cinderella that morning (Salvador Dali inspired Cinderella’s pink dress in that movie, and Dior was the inspiration for her blue ball gown.  Who knew!).  And I thought it would be fun to see the movie “come to life”.

For those of you that aren’t as familiar with Cinderella in any of it’s forms (and by that I mean for those of you without little girls under the age of 5 in your house!), on her deathbed, Cinderella’s mother tells her to “Have courage and be kind”.  And so, despite the horrific treatment she is subjected to by her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella tries to remain kind to them and bravely does whatever is asked of her.  In this new movie, this line is repeated several times throughout the movie; which is perhaps why it made such an impression on me.

Whatever issue you might have with the story of Cinderella, I think this is a pretty powerful message.  Think of the people you most admire in your life . . . I’m going to bet one of the first things you’ll say about them is how amazingly kind they are; and that that sentiment will likely be followed by how they have faced some sort of trial with a tremendous amount of courage.  I know that I can say with certainty that the people that have had the most impact on my life have been both amazingly kind even in the face of some pretty horrible circumstances.

And so, it’s likely I’ll be printing this out later and hanging it up in my office (although that might require another trip to Michael’s. . .).  And if you have a spare moment, check out the site I got it from, Petite Lemon, she’s got some amazing printable stuff!!

Have Courage

In my own VERY tongue in cheek way, I got to practice this tonight, as this was the first of our weekly “kids choose the dinner” dinners.  I gave the older one a cookbook last week and told him he could pick anything he wanted out of it to make for dinner (as I had pre-selected the cookbook, I knew it couldn’t be anything too removed from what we normally eat for dinner).  Shockingly, (and I say that with a heavy dose of sarcasm), he chose to make burgers.  Specifically, we made Martha Stewart’s Best Beef Burgers.  They were good; kids ate them, they have next to no ingredients, and the kids LOVED mixing the meat and forming it into patties.  In case you’re wondering – I thought myself quite courageous for letting them get in there and mix the meat themselves and kind for remaining perfectly calm when little bits of beef ended up scattered around the kitchen counter, floor, kids…

And yes, we did ALL end up eating these with buns . . . with a side of roasted corn on the cob and kale chips.

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Normal Day

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me now pass you by in a quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.  One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”

-Mary Jean Irion

I read this quote a few years ago.  A few years ago when I was in the throes of trying to recover from my brain surgery.  When I had a baby and a toddler at home with me.  When I wondered how on earth my life was ever going to feel “normal” again.

And then the quote showed up again this week in my Pinterest feed.  And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I started my day today with the usual household stuff; getting ready for the day, feeding the kids and myself, making sure we all have everything we need for the day.  There were drop offs for both kids.  And then there was a workout at the new unbelievably amazing All In One gym with THE trainer that was responsible for getting me into crossfit in the first place.  When I was done, I came home, chatted with friends on the phone, talked to the Husband, ate my lunch…

And then it hit me.

I was HAVING A NORMAL DAY.

(sorry it took so long to outline my totally normal (boring) day for you all).

It’s taken a few years, a lot of tears, some trial and error, and there have been lots of bumps along the road, but life is back to NORMAL.

I have nothing but IMMENSE gratitude for all those that I encountered along this journey, for the experiences I have had, and for the lessons I have learned.

And for the first time in a long time I’m going to say this without worrying that I’m somehow jinxing it . . . I can’t WAIT for lots more of these normal days.

(yes, there were a lot of caps used in this post, but today kind of feels like a BIG DEAL kinda day that required the liberal use of the caps lock button)

(since today was so normal, I was also sorting through my photos for this week – more on my photo of the day project at a later date – and found this one from the weekend, that just seems to go so well with this post)

Started from the bottom . . .

Mommy School

I’ll start with the backstory:

My kids wake up early in the mornings.  Like 5:30 early.  Consistently.  It’s been this way since they were born, it never changes, no matter when they go to sleep, and I don’t foresee this habit changing anytime soon.  I will freely admit that this used to really bother me.  Mostly because I find it hard to find 10 consecutive minutes to myself to get anything meaningful done.    The Husband and I are both early risers, so the fact that the kids both are really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  But I digress.

In the past, I have tried to fill in the 3 hours we have in the morning together in a meaningful way – but somehow it usually ended up with the kids watching more tv than they probably should have, and nothing much meaningful happening.

This past summer, I wanted to find a way to get my son really interested in reading (he’s an excellent reader, he just doesn’t tend to pick up a book unprompted) and to get my daughter actually reading (she thinks telling me what’s happening in the pictures is “real” reading)!  So, we spent 10 minutes in the morning, once breakfast was done, working on phonics.  Because I wanted the kids to take what we were doing seriously (as in I wanted them to stay sitting at the table until we were done with our work), I told them that they were in “Mommy School”.  They seemed to buy it and it worked out quite well.  Ok . . . I did also put a reward system in place, so that for every 3 pages of work they did, they got a sticker on their chart; if they completed the chart (16 stickers), they got to choose one item from a list of rewards that included picking what we were having for dinner, walking to the store to buy a new book, or 20 minutes of iPad time.

As September rolled around, I wanted to find a way to teach them more than just phonics.  After the road trip we took in the summer, I saw how captivated they could get by certain topics, and I wanted to carry that over into our “Mommy School”.  So . . . I set about dividing the upcoming year into units, and focusing on a different theme in each unit.

I started with cooking and food in September; figuring that we were back to routines, back to cooking more with the oven than the barbecue, and so we could all get into learning more about our food, famous chefs, and even about cookbooks.  But . . . that didn’t go so well.  Turns out my kids do like to cook (if it’s muffins, kale chips, or a dessert), and the only foods they’re really interested in right now are pasta, steak, and chocolate.  Pretty much an epic fail on my part.

So we’ve moved on.  We have a trip planned to DisneyWorld in November, so our new unit is Disney.  We’ve spent the last 2 mornings learning about Walt Disney the man and the history of the Disney company.  Both kids are fascinated.  We’ll move on to learning about how cartoon movies are made, reading some of the original (non-disney) stories that the movies are based on, and we’ll even touch on how DisneyWorld, the theme park, is constructed.

Together, we’re all learning, we’re all engaged, and we now have some structure to our mornings; no more mindless tv watching.  Of course, this ties into my post yesterday; by being organized, by getting things done the night before/the weekend before, and by approaching the day with a calmer outlook, I have the time to devote to this little project, and to the kids.  And I couldn’t be happier.

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