A Time for New Growth

“In order for there to be new growth, there must be a time of letting go”

-Danielle Orner

As I reflect on this past week, I realize I have been gently letting go of a lot of “stuff” lately, and especially this week.

There has been a letting go of items around the house that we simply no longer need. The bowls I blogged about the other day, the ones I just wasn’t ready to let go of . . . they’re gone.  The kids rooms continue to be quietly cleaned out of the toys and books that they just don’t use anymore.  And I even culled my giant bin of saved art that the kids have brought home over the last FIVE years.

There has been a letting go in terms of my perception of my family.  I can now acknowledge that we are all getting older.  The kids are growing up.  And some of the things we’ve done every year since they were babies, well, we might not do them again after this year.  (Realistically, at what age are my kids going to rebel against the idea of wearing matching pjs on special occasions like halloween and Christmas????).

And there has been a letting go of what has been.  I’m finally ready to give thanks for certain events in my life, but also to put them to rest.

And just as this process of letting go has been slow and gentle, so too will be the process of new growth.

And on that note, I thought I’d include a link to an article I read this morning entitled ““Screw Finding Your Passion”.  The greatest teachers in my life had had the initials “MM” which may be why I was inexplicably drawn to this guy’s writing . . . either that or I just really liked the title of the article.  Regardless, I think it’s pretty awesome, and you might too.  (thanks to my high school music teacher for posting this on Facebook!)

Now . . . to get the kids into their halloween costumes and set for a day of fun, sugar, and yet more sugar.  Planning a very calm night in tonight, serving some cauliflower soup that I whipped up yesterday morning and a chicken recipe a friend sent me two days ago that I can’t wait to try.

Happy Friday!!!

So Who’s Giving Up Bacon and Red Meat (‘Cause I’m Not) – But Really this Post is About Cookies

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(in case you’re wondering, after a wonderful day of celebration and reflection yesterday, life is officially back to normal today)

So . . .yesterday the WHO announced that red and processed meats lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.  I was amazed by just how many people were talking about this announcement yesterday – teachers at the kids school, people at the gym, random people I passed at the mall.  Although I suppose I shouldn’t be; it was a great headline.  And while the information that the report was based on and the conclusions that were drawn are a bit tenuous (I spoke with an expert on this subject yesterday and I’m awaiting his formal “statement” on the matter), that didn’t seem to matter to the people who were abandoning their bacon and processed meats yesterday.

What I’m trying to get at is this: how is it surprising that when we take the meat from animals raised with high exposure to chemicals, and then process the meat from these animals with more chemicals into “processed meats” that these processed meat products are carcinogenic?

In this family, we’re going to keep eating our red meat.  And our bacon.  But we’re going to keep buying organic / grass-fed / pastured meats.  And get our bacon either from my brother (who makes his own without the use of chemicals) or from our butcher who also makes it (without the use of chemicals).

Ok.  I think that’s enough of a rant for today.  Except for the fact that I will say, as much as I, and the family, avoids processed meats, we also avoid processed foods in general (I refer to my statement about adding more chemicals to already chemical laden ingredients . . . how can that possibly be healthy????).  This of course leads to some pretty big issues around snack time for the kids.  They want the “fun” processed foods that all their friends get.

So, my quest for healthy but still “fun” and nut-free snacks continues.  I was inspired today by a friend’s pin. It was for gluten-free oatmeal cookies.  They looked good, the recipe was nut-free, gluten-free, sugar free, and seemed like it would work.  So, me being me, went for it . . . but with a few modifications.  I think they’re pretty good.  And I think the kids will like them too.  Guess I’ll have my answer in about an hour!  Oh . . .and due to my lack of gluten-free baking supplies today, I just used regular flour (it’s raining cats and dogs, and I just didn’t feel like going back out for gluten-free flour).

But seriously, these aren’t crispy or chewy cookies.  They’re more like a cross between a mini muffin top and a cookie . . .if that makes any sense at all.  They were super easy to make, and I’d make them again for sure (even if I’m the only one that eats them).

Question is now . . . are the kids going to eat the cookies because they don’t want to do their homework?  Or are the kids going to do their homework because they want to eat the cookies . . .

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 60 small cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup softened butter

4 eggs

1/4 cup raw honey

2tsp vanilla

1tsp baking powder

1tsp baking soda

1 cup oats

3 cups flour (regular or gluten free)

2/3 cups chocolate chips (I use the mini Enjoy Life brand)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a mixer, or a bowl, cream the butter and honey until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well so that everything is well combined.
  3. Add in the baking soda, baking powder, oats, and flour.  Mix gently to combine.  The mixture will be sticky (because of the honey), and quite stiff.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and given one last mix to combine it all.
  5. I used my 1tbs ice cream scoop to make balls out of the dough.  I put 12 balls on each tray (I didn’t line the trays with parchment paper or grease them, and the cookies came out just fine) and used a fork dipped in warm water to mash down each ball.  With this size scoop, I got 60 smallish cookies out of the batter.  The cookies rose up, and didn’t flatten out much.
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes (cooking time depends on your oven and how many you cook at once – I kept mine in for all 12 minutes, but did them 2 trays at a time).  Let cool and enjoy!

When Gratitude Just Isn’t the Right Word

Today is a milestone in my life.  A day to remember where I’ve been, to think about where I am, and to dream about where I want to be in the future.

Four years ago today when the alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning, I had to try and kiss my sleeping little ones goodbye, not knowing what the journey that lay ahead of us was going to look like.

This morning, as the alarm went off at 4:30, the only kisses i was giving out were to the Husband as he left for the gym.

At this time 4 years ago, I was prepping for my pre-surgery MRI.  Today . . . well, I’m writing this, helping my son build some lego, and hoping that my daughter is up soon so we can make a special breakfast together.

Right about the time I was heading into a 12 hour surgery four years ago, this year at that time I’ll be doing school drop offs and then (thanks to the miracle that is the universe), I’ll be heading to Yorkdale to a little shopping . . . after which I’ll be heading to the gym.

I am beyond grateful for this delightfully ordinary day.  And am beyond grateful for all those that have helped me over the last 4 years with a recovery process that has had it’s moments.

And above all, I am beyond grateful for the amazingly talented surgeon who went the extra mile, took the extra time, and made sure that he got out as much of my tumour as possible.  I was fortunate to be able to participate in a video tribute to Dr. Gentili a few months ago.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, take a look; we are so lucky to have the doctors we do in this country.

Surrender

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon when a word or a phrase or a concept keeps coming up in your life?  Like the universe may be desperately trying to get you to turn your attention to something?  Well, that’s been happening to me. Ok . . . my son has been asking me at every turn (quite literally) for a Lego Star Wars set that was discontinued years ago . . . but that’s not what I mean.

For a while now, I’ve heard phrases like “trust”, “let it go”, and of course, “surrender”.  At first, when I’d hear things like this, I’d mentally swat them away; there was no way in hell I had room for surrender in my life; planning, hard word, more hard work, and maybe a little luck . . . that’s what life was about.  It certainly wasn’t about trusting the process, letting it go, or surrendering to what could be.  In my defence, my experiences with the pituitary tumour, infertility and then the brain tumour shaped my very pragmatic outlook on life (altho one could argue these were exactly the times I needed to surrender most . . . but I digress).

This summer, I had a brief fling with the concept of surrender; even going so far as to purchase a book on the topic: The Power of Surrender.  What lead me to buy this book, I have no idea (it likely came up on Amazon as a suggested book based on my purchase history) . . . I started, but dismissed it without finishing it.  When push comes to shove (haha), I’d rather get scrappy with life than sit back and let the universe take over.

On Saturday night, the Husband cooked an amazing dinner for us all.  The four of us sat as a family in the dining room, candles were lit, and we had a quiet enjoyable family dinner.  Once the kids were done, and they were settled in the family room watching a movie, the Husband and I got to talking over a bottle of wine.  Conversation turned to our upcoming trip to Disney.  This is a trip we’ve made every year since the little one was born.  Our first trip there was just a few weeks before the brain tumour diagnosis.  That first trip was pure magic from start to finish; it was our first trip as a family of 4, it was the first trip to Disney for all of us; and everything about that trip was just amazing.  Except for the fact that it was on that trip that I came to know, deep down, that something was very wrong – the symptoms of the tumour became unavoidable, and I knew I would have to see the doctor when I returned home.  As a result, Disney holds a weird place in my heart; it’s a place where I experienced perfect happiness, but it’s also inextricably tied to the whole tumour saga.

Anyway, a Disney trip is all about planning.  Our meals were booked 180 days ago.  Fastpasses for our rides were booked 60 days ago; our entire vacation is laid out in an Excel spreadsheet.  And if you have caught on to the fact that I really, really like traditions . . .you should see what happens at Disney . . . I try to recreate certain moments, photos, experiences on every trip.  But on Saturday night, the doubt started to creep in.  What if, I asked the Husband, I didn’t plan things right?  What if, I asked, we want to do something other than what I’ve planned.  What if . . . . .

Because what has been running around my head these last few days is the fact that on our road trip this summer, we/I planned NOTHING.  Ok . . . we did have a few restaurant reservations for dinner, and we did have tickets to see a few baseball games.  But otherwise, we arrived in each city with no preconceived notions or ideas as to what we should/could/might do.  AND IT WAS THE BEST TRIP EVER.

Then I read my friend Rozanne’s blog.  And guess what she was talking about this weekend . . . yup.  SURRENDER.  Rozanne is one of the wisest people I know; so when Rozanne broaches a topic, it’s my cue to sit up and listen.  It was as if the universe had set out a giant neon arrow pointing me towards the idea of letting it go.

So, how does this all tie in?  Well, I’m going to reexamine my relationship with the concept of surrender.  And I’m going to start with our Disney trip . . . no more obsessively checking for different dining reservations, no more trying to re-jig the fastpasses or what I have planned for each day, and I’m really, really, really going to try hard not to recreate moments from past trips on this trip.

As I enter my 5th year post-tumour, I’m going to work on really letting that go and/or celebrating what that experience brought into my life.

And as I parent my kids and the Husband and I navigate our way with them through their next steps (new schools, new experiences), I will do so with an open heart and mind.

And most importantly, in this week that is always a crazy one for me (planning for the Older one’s birthday, halloween, getting organized for our trip, and I won’t lie, dealing with the mental issues that come with the anniversary of the craniotomy), I’m going to try to surrender to the business of it all, enjoy the business of it all, and accept that everything will work out just the way it is supposed to.

Happy Monday!!!

It’s Almost 4 Years Since I said Goodbye to my Tumour . . .And Why This Year, I want to Celebrate That Day

I couldn’t do a pose in yoga yesterday . . . “It hurts the seam in my skull”, I told my teacher.  “Right,” she said, “I’d forgotten about that”.  And we both laughed.

It’s almost inconceivable to me that four years have gone by since I had a craniotomy to remove my brain tumour.

Four years ago, I had a nine month old baby, an almost 3 year old, and I was planning for the unknown and unknowable.

Four years since this weekend when the photo above was taken.

Trust me when I say there are no cheery articles to help moms of newborns decide when “the best time to wean your newborn in preparation for your operation” is, or “how soon can your kids visit you in the hospital post-surergy without traumatizing them”.  The irony was not lost on my that I spent hours in a class to prepare for the birth of my first kid, but there was absolutely no instruction available to me on how to navigate the lead up to and return home from a potentially changing surgery.

But this isn’t a post to dwell on the past.  Because I’m at a point where I can honestly say, the past really is the past when it comes to my tumour.

Sort of.

I read an article this week about the effects of trauma on a person.  Specifically how trauma can fundamentally change a person.

I know that happened to me.

Health and happiness are my top priorities now, for me and my family.  And our decisions, as individuals, and as a family usually tend to reflect these priorities.  It’s why we eat the way we do; we buy organic food, try not to eat processed foods and limit the sugar we eat, and why I am happy to meal-plan, cook and bake to ensure that we have good food to eat each day.  It’s why we don’t drink during the week, and why on the weekends, we don’t usually over-do it.  It’s why we’ve placed a priority on being active, even if that means the Husband is up at 4:30 to get to the gym, and I spend so many hours during the week in the gym.  It’s why we’re careful with our commitments, making sure to take time to spend just as a family of 4, and for each of us to have some quiet time for themselves, and for weekend afternoon naps if that’s what we need.  It’s why I try to structure my/our life/lives to allow for the greatest possible flow; without discord and obstacles, we are free to focus on enjoying life, and all it has to offer, and all we have to offer each other in this family.

But it goes deeper than that too.  I am profoundly grateful to be here and to experience this life I have with the Husband and the kids and my/our decisions about what we do and how we do it, reflect and celebrate this deep gratitude.  So yes, we are about to take our annual trip to Disney (it is the happiest place on earth!), and no, our kids aren’t yet in competitive sports teams (another year of a more relaxed schedule, and more time for the kids to decide what really makes them happy).

So, while I am quite ready forget about the tumour and the angst and upset that the tumour brought to that time in my life (a time when I would have much rather have focused on being a mom of a toddler and a newborn), I can’t.  It made me who I am today (a much better version of the me pre-tumour, at least in my humble opinion).

It’s been too easy for too long to focus on what I lost during that time of my life.  It’s time to focus on what I’ve gained because of it.

And that, my friends, is why I’m choosing to celebrate the anniversary of the surgery this year.  And yes the celebration just may involve some sort of sugar . . . because what’s a celebration without cake????

(and if you’re curious, this is the article I read about trauma and the effect it can have on a person – it really hits the nail on the head.)

When the Value Placed on Your Life is $0

A confluence of events over the past few months has lead to the Husband and I reassessing our insurance needs lately; policies came up for renewal, the Husband turned 40, we realized our life is a bit different than it was 10 years ago when we first took out insurance policies . . .

Specifically a life insurance policy that I had taken out for myself pre marriage was due to expire.  Given my role as a stay-at-home mom, the fact that I haven’t worked in close to 7 years, and the fact that the kids are pretty much in full-day school, I wasn’t sure that I needed a life insurance policy anymore.  But, as I tend to be rather risk-averse, I took the pragmatic approach, and asked our financial advisor and our insurance broker for some quotes.  All was fine and dandy until I reminded them of the small health issue I encountered a few years back that might make getting new insurance difficult. . . that pesky little brain tumour.

And that pretty much ended the discussions right there.  While I could renew the policy I already have . . . according to the insurance companies, my life, for all  intents and purposes, is essentially worthless.

While you could take this post as a warning to make sure that you have proper insurance in place before anything happens . . . I prefer to look at it as a bit of black humour.  I’m fairly certain that the kids and the Husband (at least most of the time) wouldn’t call my life worthless. And I’m also fairly certain that I’m healthier and stronger now than I was all those years ago when I first took out a life insurance policy.  And that, I believe is true irony.

On that note, I’m going to get my worthless self back into the kitchen to whip up more of those amazing chocolate cookies for the kids for their after-school treat.  Really . . . you HAVE to try making these cookies.  They are THAT good!!!

There is Magic in Focusing on How You Want to Feel

Ok.  I mentioned last week that I want to feel light, happy and full of joy.  And according to Danielle Laporte, the way to do this is to focus on doing those things that make me feel that way, and I will end up feeling that way.  So, instead of making mental and physical to-do lists in the morning, I’ve been trying to focus on what I can do in each day to make me feel the way I aspire to feel.

Interestingly, I’ve found a LOT of my to-do list items are still getting done.  But, the intention behind ticking these chores off the to-do list is far different; and the way I feel after I’m done is way different too.  I actually smiled through (most) of the garage clean up/out this weekend.

But the biggest place I’ve noticed a difference in the last week is in the gym.  Right now, I’m not focused on specific goals.  Instead, I’m focused on improving my technique and getting stronger overall.  And yes, I’m focused on trying to learn pull-ups.  But unlike any of the other times I’ve tried to force myself into becoming some sort of pull-up phenom, I’ve crashed and burned spectacularly (i.e. “over-planning” never worked).

This time around, I’ve spent the last week just trying to get a little bit stronger each day.  Yes, I’ve been doing pull-ups every day, but without too much planning, forethought or desire for set outcomes.  And on Friday, I did manage to eek out one strict pull-up.  But that was it, and I was content to celebrate the small win, and move on with more practice.

Today, I had a few minutes to spare in the gym, so I thought I’d try to squeeze in a few pull-ups as my practice for the day.  I jumped up to the highest pull-up bar, so there was no way for me to cheat the movement, and . . . .I gave a mighty pull . . . and my chin made it over the bar.  In my excitement, I dropped off the bar, and did a little happy dance.  But then, I jumped back up, and did it a second time . . . . and a third. . . . and a fourth . . . . and a fifth.

Five strict pull-ups.  In one day.  MAGIC.

I feel good.  Really good.  And strong.  And like I want to keep working hard to feel good.  And strong.

I’m going to take this as a lesson learned; that focusing on what makes me feel good can lead to some pretty magical moments; in life, and in the gym.  And I’m curious to see where this will lead me as I continue to try and focus on how I want to feel, and doing the things that make me feel that way.

Happiness in a Bowl of Cauliflower Soup

Yesterday, I woke up with a ton of energy.  I was riding a high from Saturday – finding a recipe for nut-free, semi-healthy cookies that my entire family will eat (other kids tried them – and they liked them too . . . so I know it really is a good recipe), seeing my son take part in a ceremonial puck drop for his hockey association, and then spending an awesome afternoon that turned into dinner with friends and their kids.  It was a fantastical day through and through.

So what did I decide to do with all that energy . . . . tackle the garden of course!  There was no better today to put the garden to bed for the winter – it was sunny, not too cold, and I had all the time in the world to get the job done.  Of course, as I went to the garage to get my gardening tools, I was faced with the obstacle course that my garage had become (yet again!).  So, with the help of the Husband, we did a massive garage clean-out/up.

At some point, probably during the basement reno a few years ago, I filled a big plastic tub with kitchen stuff that wasn’t in every-day use.  Clearly, we’ve never needed any of it, as I had completely forgotten that it was out there.  But since I had unearthed it, I decided it was time to deal with it.  For the most part, I had no issues getting rid of the stuff in that box.

Except for four ceramic bowls.  I bought these bowls when I was still in university.  When I had hopes and dreams of one day having a husband and kids.  And a house of my own.  And I would feed my small, perfect children their morning cereal out of these adorable little bowls.

Right.  So . . . I have the husband, the kids (still kinda small, and delightfully imperfect), and the house.  But the kids don’t particularly care for cereal (at least not for breakfast anyway, as a snack after school, eaten dry, maybe), and the cuteness of the bowls are be completely lost on them (I believe my son asked if there was a Star Wars version that he could have instead).

Hmmmmm.  I tried all my new tricks; what did these bowls me to me right now?  did I really need them?  What would my life be like if I gave them on to someone else to love???

And then I did what any logical person would do.  I washed them, made a batch of homemade soup, and sat down to enjoy my soup out of my treasured bowls.  Maybe the novelty will wear off in a day or two and then I’ll be ready to part with them.  But for now . . . I’m going to use them, be thankful for my dreams that have come true, and enjoy my soup.

Happy Monday.

Roasted Cauliflower and Apple Soup

  • Servings: 8 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 heads of cauliflower

olive oil

2 apples peeled and cut into eighths (I used MacIntosh this time)

4 garlic cloves, peeled

3 shallots, peeled and cut into quarters (or use 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped)

4 cups stock or bone broth

salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Prepare 2 cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Roughly chop the cauliflower and toss it with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Arrange the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheets.
  3. Scatter the apples, onions, and garlic amongst the cauliflower.
  4. Put the cookie sheets in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower starts to brown and look “roasted”.
  5. While the cauliflower etc. is roasting, heat up the stock in a large pot.
  6. When the cauliflower is roasted, add it all to the pot and bring it all to a simmer.
  7. Take the pot off the heat, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup.  (I then used my blender to further puree it . . . but it’s not necessary).

Today is a GOOD Day or How I Discovered the Answer to One of the Universe’s Great Mysteries

After about 1,000,000 attempts to come up with a cookie that was paleo, nut free, gluten free AND that my kids would actually like, I had to cut my losses, walk away, and accept that my kids would snack on store-bought organic chocolate gingersnaps at school for their “treat” snack.

But today, I was oddly inspired to give it one more shot . . .I had pinned a recipe earlier in the week for chocolate cookies.  Based on all my previous attempts, I had a sense, just from reading the recipe, that they might work out.  And so . . . I gave it a shot.

The Husband had a hard time containing his laughter when he figured out what I was up to.

But then . . . the cookies came out of the oven . . . perfectly timed to the end of our lunch . . . and I was redeemed . These cookies are GOOD.  The Husband liked them.  The kids LOVED them.  And I thought they were fantastic!  I can definitely serve these at a girls night without anyone being any the wiser that they aren’t “real” cookies!  And the kids certainly won’t complain when I send them to school in their lunches.

The recipe comes from a blog called A Whole New Twist.  I changed the baking time, but otherwise, the recipe is pretty much the same.  It looks like she has lots of good recipes on her blog – I can’t wait to try her gingersnaps!!!

Anyway . . . make these cookies!  I promise you’ll love them!!  Just try to remember that they are a treat . . . and it’s probably not a good idea to eat all 24 of them in one sitting . . .

I also made one more attempt at the crispy rice squares today – this time I used puffed rice and peanut butter . . . so we’ll see how they go over with the family later in the day!

A Whole New Twist Double Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: 24 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup coconut/palm sugar

1 egg

1Tbs raw honey

2tsp vanilla

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

3 tbs coconut flour

1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 325.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer.  Add in the egg, honey and vanilla and continue to beat on medium to high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the tapioca flour, baking soda, and mix on low until just combined – if you over-beat at this point, the tapioca flour will take on a gummy texture in the cookies (which is NOT good).
  4. Add in the coconut flour, and give a quick mix to combine.
  5. Then add in the chocolate chips and sea salt and give the mixture one last quick mix.  Make sure everything is combined, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well mixed!
  6. Drop about 1tbs of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I put 12 cookies on each sheet.  You should get 24 cookies out of this batter.
  7. Put both cookie sheets into the oven and cook for about 22 minutes, or until the cookies are set.
  8. ENJOY!!!!

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