Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happiness = Success

I had a revelation recently. If you're happy and fulfilled, regardless of what you are doing in life, then you're successful. I am at the very least trying to convince myself of this. I have never felt successful on the professional front. Why? Well because while most of my friends have been building work experience, I've been racking up basically useless graduate degrees because I wasn't clear on what I wanted to do for a career. During the periods of my life where I have been working, and even, in some cases, hobnobbing with important people and making good money, I've been miserable and unfulfilled. Now, I am almost completely unemployed (except for my weekly spinning class and occasional seminar I present for the corporate fitness company), for the first time since my undergraduate degree, which I completed 14 years ago. So no income to speak of and back in school for my 4th university degree after which I will be starting a new career, right from the beginning, which will probably take a while to launch.

My default is to consider myself a failure because at 36, I am just beginning my career path and making bupkis. Most of my friends at this stage are firmly established in their law/academic/teaching/publishing/journalism/consulting careers and have 2 income households allowing them to live in fancier neighbourhoods, spend more on clothes/food/interior decorating, etc. and take many more family vacations.

But I am enjoying school. Although they drive me nuts sometimes, I feel blessed to have a loving husband and two beautiful, healthy, fiesty daughters. I have a large network of supportive friends and family. We are not rich but we are certainly much more fortunate than most and financially comfortable enough that I was able to quit the high paying job that I hated to start this journey. Day to day life is enjoyable and I'm happy and based on the options available to me, I am doing what I want with my professional life and hopefully moving it in the right direction so that one day I will be able to say I love my work. In the present, I love my life and I'm, you know what? I'm a success! In cognitive-behavioural therapy terminology, this would be referred to as replacing a negative core belief (I am a failure) with an alternative (I am a success). It may sound hoakey, but you know what? It does make me feel better. It is certainly a more positive way of thinking than focusing on all the decisions I have made in the past that I regret (why didn't I just do a psych degree and then go on to get a clinical psych PhD so that by now I'd have my own counselling practice and would be making big bucks?). Let's face it, having regrets is really a total waste of time.

The past is history, the future is unknown but the present is reality.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rice Pudding

I had a ton of leftover rice from Wednesday's dinner so I decided to make this yesterday. I made it low-fat so Adam can enjoy it without worrying about his cholesterol, but I really wanted to see if the girls would eat it for breakfast. It's actually pretty nutritious (calcium, fibre, protein, complex carbs, etc.) and I used very little sugar considering it made a lot (next time I might add even less). It was a HUGE hit with both girls! You can make it richer, if you want, by using 2% or whole milk and whole eggs. You can also add raisins or other dried fruit, if you wish.

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups skim milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg whites (or 2 whole large eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat milk and sugar in large saucepan over medium heat. Beat eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Bring milk to a boil and remove about 1/4 cup of milk, whisking hot milk into eggs to temper them. Add rice, vanilla, cinnamon and egg mixture and simmer until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and pour into serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap against top surface if you do not like a skin to form. Refrigerate for several hours until set.

Testing the Waters

P1: Well I just completed my third course in the Miscarriage/Infertility certificate program, so I'm now officially half way through. I got an A+ in the Counselling Ethics course for my Masters, and am currently enjoying my Counselling Methodologies--Behavioural and Cognitive Modalities course. Still no word from Dr. M at Mount Sinai, inspite of sending her a reminder email last week, so no progress on the research project. Sigh!

P2: The parenting consultants warned me that things with Big A might get a lot worse before they get better because she will really start testing the limits with me once I make changes to my discipline system. So I was very surprised when we had an amazingly easy week with her. Therefore, I should NOT have been shocked when she had a major flip out last night. It started when we got in the door at the end of the day and she threw her coat on the floor and ordered me to hang it up for her. I told her that this was rude, and to please pick it up, apologize, and ask me nicely to hang it up for her. She resisted so I finally told her I was taking away her jacket as a punishment (it's her favorite pink jacket, but conveniently it is too light for the chilly weather the next few days and this gives me a chance to wash it). She flew into a rage and told me she was going to hide the jacket in her room so I could not take it from her. She did so and I responded by telling her she was not allowed to wear her Halloween costume to school today. She became hysterical at this point and begged me for another chance, but I stood my ground. She raged and cried and whined for AN HOUR but I listened to the consultants' advice and completely ignored her. She became very upset and asked why I was ignoring her and only paying attention to Little A. I explained that I was not going to acknowledge her bad behaviour. She finally calmed down and by the time Adam walked in the door at 7pm, she had settled down and was eating her supper. I was proud of myself for keeping my cool. I didn't yell once. And even though it took a whole bloody hour, I was able to resolve the issue with her myself, without having to get Adam involved, something the consultants said was important.

Nevertheless, today as we walked to school and saw all the other kids dressed up in their Halloween costumes, I felt terrible and guilty. But I know I have to follow through with the punishment and in a way it is ideal. I took away a privilege that meant a lot to her so she will hopefully learn a lesson. Ironically, Little A won't let anyone get near her with her puppy costume...I'm really hoping she'll put in on for Trick or Treating on Sunday!

Adam was away all last week in Ottawa for business. His absence was obviously strongly felt. Since his return, it is ALL about daddy for Little A. As much as it warms my heart to see her adoring her daddy as much as Big A always has, I admit I'm a tad disappointed that the novelty of mommy has already worn off. When I go get her from her crib first thing in the morning, the first thing she says is, "Daddy?". Sigh!

F1: Just as I had stopped obsessing over my kids' diets from a nutritional standpoint, I am now obsessing over it from a dental-hygiene perspective. Since we discovered Big A's cavities, I haven't let either of them have any raisins or dried fruit snacks. But I wonder what other foods I should have them avoid. It's not like they are willing to eat such a wide variety of healthy foods as it is!

F2: When I went for physio the other day there was a guy doing this exercise in the gym there. Now this clinic treats a lot of competitive athletes, so my guess is this guy is one of them because I tried this exercise and could not do it. I will warn you it is EXTREMELY advanced, but perhaps if you have better core strength than I do (I have had 2 c-sections after all) and/or you have better stability, you can do it. If so, please let me know. I'll be VERY impressed. I'm working toward being able to do it myself one day...

Ball/Bosu Core Exercise

Place one hand on either side of a Bosu ball (round side down) and rest your feet on a stability ball. Drag the ball in towards your hands so that you are in a pike position and then push it back out so that you are in a plank position, parallel with the floor. Repeat as many times as you can.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Energy Boost

Aside from weight loss, the other thing it seems everyone is in pursuit of is more energy. Look at the abundance of energy enhancing products on the market these days. Red Bull, etc. is everywhere and there is also energy gum, candy, and brownies that I have seen. Wake up folks (ha ha, no pun intended!), these are not a good solution. Most of them are full of crap along with that caffeine and mix of "herbs". They can also have nasty side-effects. At the CAN-FIT-PRO conference I got a free sample of an energy shot ( I gave it a try and instantly got hot and tingly and broke out in itchy hives all over. Turns out it has a lot of niacin in it, something I am very sensitive to. People claim niacin flushes are good for you but it sure didn't feel good! I had to take a Benadryl to get the hives down.

What is the best way to get more energy?

* GET ENOUGH SLEEP! I can't stress enough how important sleep is, and nothing can replace it. More and more research is demonstrating how critical it is for our health. Most people need 7ish hours.

* Eat a balanced diet with regular meals and snacks. Both what and when you eat is important. Eat complex carbs and foods low on the GI index for sustained energy. Things like whole grains, fruits and veggies, low fat protein, etc. Stay away from refined carbohydrates, candy, juice and empty calories of any kind. Eat every few hours, ideally three meals and two snacks per day, with no more than 4 hours between.

* Stay hydrated. Water is best. Avoid drinking sugary drinks altogether.

* Manage stress. Do whatever works for you - meditation, yoga, shopping, reading, cooking. Essentially take time for yourself.

* Exercise. Yes, expending energy actually gives you a lot more. Get moving.

A word on caffeine...

Caffeine is the main ingredient in most commercial "energy" supplements. It has been proven to enhance athletic performance. Just try it. I've just started taking caffeine pills first thing in the morning before my workout. I don't have time to drink a coffee and it's too hard on my stomach but I often wish I could get a bit of a boost since I go from fast asleep in my bed to pounding it out in our home gym in about 10 minutes flat. So this morning, I took 1 100mg caffeine pill before I started my workout. Wow, it really makes a difference! I did the most chin ups I have EVER done. I definitely felt stronger. After my workout, I had a coffee and that was definitely enough caffeine for the day. While trying to do school work this morning, I felt like doing jumping jacks. And that's the key with caffeine, do not OD!! Too much will just make you feel nervous and jittery. I learned my lesson on Saturday. I took 2 caffeine pills before my workout and felt great. But then I took advantage of having more leisure time, compared to during the week, and gulped down 2 massive coffees with my breakfast. BIG MISTAKE! I felt nauseous and jittery for most of the rest of the day. Next time I feel like extra coffee, I'm going for decaf!

Falling Through The Cracks

The change in my relationship with Big A since the consultants were here is amazing. She really does seem to respect me more and even enjoy my company more. The challenges have not gone away, but they are much easier to manage. For example, she did her usual routine this morning of refusing to put her clothes on, using every excuse in the book and begging me to get her dressed (something the consultants said I have to stop doing altogether). I often have given in because I simply don't want to deal with a tantrum at 6:30am. This morning I told her she had to dress herself. Period. She whimpered and whined and resisted and even yelled at me, but eventually, after about 25 minutes, she was fully dressed. Later, I told her how proud I was of her that she dressed herself and she said, "I'm proud of myself." I guess that says it all.

I took Big A to the dentist for her bi-annual check-up yesterday. Everything looked great when the hygienist and dentist cleaned and checked her teeth, however, x-rays showed 3...yes 3!!! cavities. They are between her teeth, so not visible on observation. I am devastated. I didn't have a cavity until I was 18 years old, and that's the only one I've ever had. I feel so guilty because it's our responsibility - a 4.5 year old can't be expected to take care of her own oral hygiene. We brush 2x a day and almost always floss at night. But I am sure her diet is to blame. No, we rarely allow junk in the house, but even "healthy" foods can be terrible for teeth. I think her breakfasts are particularly bad. She eats her gummy vitamins (candy) and then often cereal (high fibre but also high sugar) and then she likes to have whole grain toast with honey (sugar and complex carbs, which are both bad for teeth). Snacks are often raisins or other dried fruit and/or fresh fruit. Again, nutritious but bad for teeth. The other problem is that I brush her teeth before we leave for school every morning, but then she gets there and has the snack they are serving and then goes until bedtime without any brushing. Arg!

And now I'm super worried about Little A's teeth because she was introduced to teeth-destroying foods far earlier on than Big A because (1) she was super picky, (2) I was too overwhelmed during her first year to care as much, (3) dried fruit snacks are her FAVORITE and have been since she was very little. Little A also won't let us brush her teeth at all. She grabs the toothbrush and sucks off the toothpaste and then flings it on the floor. She rarely will let Adam or I get near her mouth with the brush. And I can't tell you how often she eats dried fruit before bed (she can devour like half a bag of Craisins!!). I feel like the worst, most irresponsible mother ever. Poor Big A has to go back to the dentist on Monday to have her teeth drilled. I am very worried the whole thing will traumatize her and her former willingness to go to the dentist will disappear. What a mess...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Expert Advice

This past week was a rough one. Adam was in Ottawa for work so I was alone with the girls. Things were okay until Thursday morning when Big A and I had a huge blow out. It was triggered by me asking her to put her socks on, something she is supposed to do before the television goes on in the morning. But she didn't bring them downstairs when she came down so I let it slide. I went up and got them from her room later on and told her she had to put them on or the t.v. was going off. She fought me on it so I turned off the t.v. So she turned it back on. So I picked her up and brought her to her bedroom for a time out. She hit me and pinched me and would not stay in her room. She came downstairs and turned the t.v. on again. I called Adam in Ottawa at this point desperate for help. He advised me to disconnect the satellite. Big A then screamed and yelled from that point until I got her to school. It was a nightmare.

Perfect timing for the parenting consultants to come over that evening. And boy, am I glad they did. Their advice was certainly not earth-shattering, but it was advice I needed and it IS WORKING!!!! Basically, they said Big A misbehaves with me (A) Because she wants attention and she doesn't care if it's positive or negative, and (B) I am not consistent enough so she is always testing to see when I will bend the rules. So essentially, I (we - Adam too) have to: (1) Be 100% consistent, NO RULE BENDING, (2) Completely ignore bad behaviour and make a HUGE deal of any positive behaviour (like over the top, cheering, etc.), and (3)Give immediate punishments/rewards (no more prizes for 1 week of good behaviour, etc., reward or punish behaviour immediately). Since I've been doing all this (3 days now), it has made all the difference. She is not challenging me all the time, she is treating me with more respect and we are enjoying our time together so much more. I am so thrilled and relieved. The consultants are also coming back Wednesday evening with some ideas for ways in which Big A and I can spend some quality time together. Halleluyah!

A mom of 2 sets of twins, who I know, who takes me Sunday spinning class, asked me how I could not have known to do these things. I did sort of, but I think things got so bad that I didn't think that doing these things would make a big difference or be effective. I don't know...I guess it's like people who "know" what they should be eating and know that they should be exercising to lose weight, but they still need to see a dietitian and/or personal trainer to get them going. Or maybe I'm just an idiot. At least I figured this all out now and not 10 years from now...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kiddie Alfredo Redux

Big A has requested this dish so many times that I have refined it quite a bit. Here are two versions, the second one is a sneaky way to get some veggies in your kids. Ironically, Little A loved it but Big A would have no part of it. But the joke was on me - she saw the bag of cauliflower and asked for some on the side. Before I knew it, she and Little A had gobbled down about 2/3 of a pound of cauliflower! I think because it was frozen cauliflower they liked the fact that it was so soft and mushy.

1/2 lb whole grain linguine, broken into 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup light cream cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
OPTIONAL ADD IN: 2 cups frozen cauliflower, steamed and pureed (to make about I cup puree)

Cook and drain pasta and place back on stove with burner off (if using gas stove) or turned to low (if using electric). Add all other ingredients and stir until creamy.

Heart Rate Monitors

If you want to get fit or fitter, there is really nothing more helpful than a heart rate monitor (HRM). I stopped using mine after I gave birth to Little A, probably because I was sick of HAVING to use it everyday while pregnant to make sure I was exercising at a safe level (although the basic guideline is that if you can talk fairly easily and are not out of breath, you're fine). But recently I decided I had to change up my hill walking routine. Even though I tell everyone else not to get stuck in an exercise rut, I had done just that. I kept telling myself that I'd change it up when it started feeling easier, but that never happened. It always felt hard and I was frustrated. The extreme angle I was working at was also killing my hamstring. Although the physiotherapist told me I don't need to avoid any activities, and, in fact, need to do things that target the hamstring, on days when I did my hill walks I was in even more pain. But I figured the only change I could make was to decrease my effort and I was not willing to do that. Finally, I decided to play around with my speed and incline until I could find a different combo that kept me working at the same intensity. I put on my HRM only to find the battery was dead. Than I made the mistake of getting Adam to open it up so we could change the battery ourselves. Big mistake. Never do that. It's now in HRM heaven.

I was eager to get a new one, so I went to the mall and there was only one place that carried them. They didn't have Polar, the gold standard of HRMs and really the only brand you should buy, but I was impatient so I bought a "Sportline" brand. Big mistake #2. When I got it home, I discovered it only worked if I was sitting perfectly still. Not useful when I want to monitor my heart rate WHILE I'm exercising! So I went out and found another Polar. I did my usual workout the next day to see where I was at. In spite of the workout "feeling" really tough, my heart rate was not as high as I thought. So the next day I took the incline down to a more comfortable level but turned up the speed. Low and behold, not only did it not feel much more difficult, it actually got my heart rate up significantly higher!! This demonstrates the limits of rate of perceived exersion, which we fitness professionals always tell people to use. Sometimes it can be misleading. You really can't know for sure how hard you are working unless you have a HRM. I am so thrilled! My workout now causes less pain for my hamstring AND I'm able to actually push harder! I'm going to break through my plateau!!

Today was my first physio treatment and, fortunately, it wasn't as painful as expected. She basically yanked my pelvis into place. I was sceptical that she could do this but I did feel significantly different afterwards. My left leg felt longer and my weight was distributed much more evenly through my feet. Cool!

I ordered 3 new pilates DVDs since my physiotherapist said I should do a lot of core work: Denise Austin's "Hit the Spot Pilates", Kathy Smith's "Fat Buring Pilates" and "Peel off the Pounds Pilates". I got them for an amazing deal from I just want to point out that you can't really burn fat or peel off pounds doing pilates. Why people try to make these claims is beyond me. It neither burns enough calories or builds enough muscle to help you lose weight. What pilates is meant to do is improve your functional fitness, like your posture, balance and core strength and to teach your body to move more efficiently. Don't expect anything else.

So my fitness tip of the week is: Get a heart rate monitor...and go for a Polar one.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Information Age

I am the first to admit I am technologically challenged. I can obviously use a computer and the Internet, but I don't own a Blackberry or a Smart phone, or whatever those things are called and I rarely ever use my cell phone. In fact, I can apparently access the Internet with my phone and take photographs, but I don't know how to do either. I have yet to get Skype working on my computer (has video but no audio). As I consider all of this, I realize that I prefer the "information access" aspect of the Internet age to the "communication" aspect.

Don't get me wrong, I love email. It is quick, easy and inexpensive. It is less intrusive than calling someone on the phone when it may not be convenient. It allows you to to say things that you may not be comfortable saying face-to-face or over the phone. Social networking allows you to connect with people you haven't seen or heard from in a long time and online support groups draw together people who share similar experiences and can provide each other with the emotional support they may not be able to receive from family and friends. Cell phones are also useful communication tools, especially when you have children. I do think they are way over-used, however. Adam and I tend to use them only when absolutely necessary and very few people have our cell phone numbers. And that's about where I draw the line with modern communication tools.

I refused, when offered, to take a Blackberry from the research company I used to work for. I had no interest in being reachable by clients and colleagues after I left the office. I wanted my time with my family to be family time. Period. And one of the things I hated most about the corporate world was the complete lack of courtesy shown by most people who use these gadgets. One colleague, in particular, would frequently interrupt me in the middle of a conversation to text someone on his Blackberry. Most of my colleagues showed an unhealthy addiction to these devices, so much so, that it interfered with them actually getting their work done. They were far less efficient with their time than I was - sticking just to email and phone to communicate. I was shocked when one of my Blackberry-addicted colleagues bought his wife, a stay-at-home-mom, a fully equipped Blackberry. A regular cell phone wasn't good enough?!? It is also ridiculous to me to see adolescents and teenagers with these things. What do they need them for? With a few exceptions, I really see these things as unnecessary.

The access to information provided by the Internet is something I think is wonderful. I often wonder how different conducting research for personal, academic and professional purposes must have been like before we used the World Wide Web. And I readily admit I am addicted to the Internet. Lately, especially, I have become a serial researcher of random information. Generally, my interest gets sparked about some person, place of thing that I have read about or seen on television. This prompts some sort of search for more info, which leads to a search about some related issue, etc., etc. For example, I am reading an excellent novel right now called "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks. It's based on the true story of the Sarejavo Haggadah, an ancient Jewish text with a fascinating history. This prompted me to do a search about Jews in Bosnia/Serbia and about the text itself. Then I got thinking that I know little about the area where my own family is originally from. My maternal great-grandmother was from Lithuania. So I started researching the history of Lithuanian Jews. This led me to discover that the area once had over 200,000 Jews and almost ALL of them were wiped out during the Holocaust. Fortunately for me, my grandmother and her parents were already in the U.S. during the war, but I know my grandmother lost many relatives. It was devastating to read eye-witness accounts of thousands of Jews being marched to large pits where they were shot or beaten by the Nazis and their collaborators, and then buried in sand, even if they were still alive. This led me to find a Holocaust education website where I started reading detailed descriptions of what life was like in each concentration, labour and death camp in Europe during the war. Of course, I know that there have been many genocides since the Holocaust but none produce such a significant emotional response for me because, well, because these were my ancestors. Nevertheless, if you haven't yet seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, I urge you to do so. Just be prepared to be very very disturbed!

In any case, I guess my point is that modern technology is a wonderful source of information and it can encourage communication and connections between people, lessening the barriers of time and space. But I do think it is vastly overused and abused and can actually impede communication between people when it is not used appropriately. So, before whipping out your phone or Blackberry or whatever it is you have, look around you and ask yourself, "Is this an appropriate time?"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Szechuan Green Beans and Eggs

I had a hankering for scrambled eggs for lunch today but I also had green beans that needed to get used up so I created this dish. It turned out delicious. It might seem like a weird combo but actually eggs are used a lot in Chinese and Korean cuisine. You can omit the eggs and just serve the beans as a vegetable side dish. I ate it along with a bagel and cream cheese which really made it a multicultural meal!

1 lb fresh washed and trimmed green beans
1 tsp peanut, sesame or vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium knob fresh ginger, grated
1 tbls rice vinegar
1 tbls good quality fermented black bean paste
Hot chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1 cup egg whites or 4 extra large eggs, beaten

Add oil to skillet, wok or large frying pan over medium high heat. Add in beans, garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add vinegar, black bean paste and chili flakes (if using) and stir fry for a few more minutes. Pour in eggs and stir until eggs are cooked through.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

Big A's school called me yesterday afternoon because she had a low grade fever and tummy ache. Turns out her complaining yesterday morning was truthful after all! Adam and I were skeptical since she claims to be sick pretty much every day. I tried to explain to her why this was a good example of how harmful it is for her to be faking all the time. We have just stopped believing her! She said, "You know how the teachers knew I was really sick mommy? I was whiny." I didn't dare say what I was thinking at that point, which was, "That wouldn't have been a good indication for us because you always whine at home."

Anyways, I stayed home with her today and by 10am I had a tension headache. She was feeling well enough to drive me insane. She wouldn't play by herself so I couldn't get any work done. We did a number of activities together including some baking. I would have preferred something healthier but she was insistent on making cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles. I made them as healthy as possible and they turned out delicious.

4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1/2 cup organic agave syrup or honey or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1 tbls vinegar + milk to make 1/2 cup)
2.5 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon (Big A actually dumped in about 3-4 tbls!)

Whisk together wet ingredients in big bowl. Stir together dry ingredients and dump into wet. Mix just until combined. Fill greased muffin tins to top and bake at 400F for 18 minutes. Makes 12 large cupcakes.

2 tbls butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups icing sugar
1/4-1/2 cup milk or water

Beat butter and vanilla together. Add icing sugar and then a small amount of liquid until you have a thick fluffy frosting. Generously ice cooled cupcakes. Add sprinkles if desired (I use the all natural kind from the health food store without nasty chemicals or artificial colours).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Always Knew I'm a Bit Twisted

I had my assessment done by the physiotherapist yesterday. It seems I do not actually have sciatica but a problem related to the insertion point of my left hamstring. This is caused, as I had suspected, by my twisted pelvis. She warned me that she was going to have to do some manipulations and adjustments (which may be painful?) and that I am going to have to do a lot of hamstring strengthening. It turns out that all of those exercises, like hamstring curls and deadlifts, that I have been avoiding the past few months, are the exact ones I gotta start doing. She said it was going to hurt and the pain would likely get worse before it gets better. I have to do 2 physio sessions weekly for 3-4 weeks and then a lot of rehab exercises. I am actually very pleased that I am finally going to get "untwisted" as I am hoping this may help my other biomechanical problems. Maybe my weight distribution through my feet will improve and I can wear cute shoes again! And maybe I will be able to start running again on a regular basis...maybe?

The physiotherapist also stressed that I should do as much core work as possible. Sigh! I feel like I already do tons. I told her I am subbing a core class at Goodlife for the next few weeks and she was pleased. She confirmed what I've been suspecting lately - that pilates and core work is more helpful to my condition than yoga. I've been enjoying my biweekly yoga classes at the JCC but I'm thinking when winter comes and I can't bike there, perhaps I'll just flick on one of my pilates DVDs when I need a break from my school work. Today I put the participants through a gruelling pilates session (I could hear the men grunted and groaning) and they were very pleased with the workout. At least my pilates certification/training is coming in handy...

After a decadent weekend that included rich food and way too much red wine at the wedding on Saturday, I decided to try and be a bit more virtuous this week. Lunches have included baked falafel with tahini sauce and veggies, curried lentils and spinach wrapped in a whole wheat pita, and broiled wild ocean perch with garlic and lemon with whole wheat pita and organic greens and grape tomatoes in a soy ginger dressing. I had never had the perch before and I have to say, it is wonderful. It's a soft, buttery white fish with lots of flavour. I couldn't wait to finish it for lunch today. I've been doing a good job since my cleanse of eating more beans, fish and eggs in lieu of animal protein and soy. In fact, I've gone a bit fish-crazy and am now eating it about 3-5 times a week for lunch and/or dinner. I rotate between rainbow trout, cod, haddock, and wild salmon...but I think I may now be addicted to perch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Old McDonald

It is a gorgeous day today and I feel fantastic. No sinus pain and full of energy. Thank goodness because yesterday I woke up with a killer sinus headache, and the allergy meds, Tylenol and Advil were all useless. I was in so much pain that I ended up taking 2 of the oxycontin pills I was given for my c-section with Little A. They didn't even help! Happy Thanksgiving to me!

This brought me back to a terrible time in my life. I had intense headaches about 12 years ago that were chronic. I ended up seeing an ENT specialist, allergist and heachache specialist. I had a CAT scan and an MRI of my sinuses. The allergist thought I may just have "environmental" allergies to "big city substances" while the headache specialist felt they were really tension headaches. Basically, it was never really determined why I was having them. Fortunately, they went away eventually. I really hope they are not back.

Aside from feeling miserable yesterday, we had a pretty good long weekend. Saturday we went to Adam's former student's wedding. It was lovely and tasteful. Normally at weddings where we don't know a lot of people like this one, we've been seated with others who are roughly the same age who we may or may not have anything in common with. This time, we were seated at the table of professors. This included Adam's PhD dissertation supervisor and his mentor from his Masters degree with their respective wives. It also included a big name academic who Adam is familiar with, who was there with an exquisite Japanese woman at least 20 years his junior. The company, along with WAY too much wine, made for an interesting evening AND we got a night out to ourselves. The girls were with Adam's cousin in the afternoon and with Sherma in the evening and they had a fantastic time, they could have cared less that we were out so long.

Sunday was the lowlight of the weekend. Little A cried for "Melmo" throughout her entire first swim lesson with Adam and Big A refused to take a nap and had a huge meltdown in the afternoon just as we were trying to leave the house to do some shopping (swim instructor told parents each child should bring a toy into the pool next week so we went searching for an Elmo Little A could bring). I was also super hungover from drinking too much wine at the wedding.

Yesterday was a great day (although it would have been better if I hadn't been in so much pain). We had a morning playdate with friends that was lots of fun and then we took the girls to a Pumpkinfest at Downey's Family Farm ( I never considered farms as an outing before (I just pictured walking through huge piles of cow manure), but Adam and I have discovered that they are the perfect place to take the girls on a beautiful autumn day. They have tons of play areas and activities for the kids and it's nice to get out of the city into some fresh air. Yesterday the girls watched a magic show and Big A won a free pony ride! Little A lived up to her "Pigpen" nickname. She was filthy when we got home and in desperate need of a bath!

Little A is in a good place right now. Although the Elmo thing is a bit out of control (she doesn't want to be seperated from him EVER and he is getting as filthy as she gets), it is very endearing. She is so loving and affectionate and happy most of the time. She is also such an oddball, character that she entertains us and makes us laugh. She and Big A are so cute together, their mutual adoration is so wonderful. It will make me so happy if they grow up having a close relationship with one another.

Exercise of the Week: Preacher Curl

I rarely see women doing the preacher curl at the gym. I don't understand why, it is such a great bicep exercise. I did it on Sunday and my arms are still sore today and it's Tuesday. I didn't even use a ton of weight, but I did 2 sets of 15 reps using good form.

You don't even need special gym equipment to do it, if you follow this link, it gives you instructions on how to do it with a stability ball

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Search for Truth

I finally got to the sports medicine physician today. I was so hopeful that he would be able to diagnose the source of my pain on the spot and recommend an easy, non-invasive cure. Ha! That didn't happen. He actually doesn't think it's sciatica, but more likely some problem involving the insertion point of my hamstring. Or, less likely it is possible a disc problem, but more likely a problem with the hamstring itself. In order to really determine the cause, however, he is sending me for an MRI. Until then, I am supposed to do physio. I guess it doesn't really matter what the problem is, as long as it can be treated. Sitting is becoming so uncomfortable!

As it turns out, we were unjustified in doubting Big A about the situation at school. When I came to pick her up the other day, her teacher had, in fact, confronted the girl Big A claimed was bothering her, and the girl fessed up that she HAD, been bothering her. The teacher made her apologize and promise to stop. Apparently she was repeatedly trying to get Big A's attention and was distracting her when she was working on something. And what she was working on, in particular, was a picture she was supposed to draw of her family. I immediately could see why this would make Big A anxious. She is an incredibly bright girl who is articulate, quick witted and imaginative. But she is terrible at art. Adam believes she takes after him as he claims he was bad at art, no matter how hard he tried. But I don't actually believe she tries. She rarely does more than scribble and I don't really see her putting any thought into her arts and crafts. However, it is clearly not her strength or something she is too interested in. Perhaps she is watching the other kids drawing at a much more advanced level and has suddenly become self-conscious about it?

After a really tough week of intense conflict with Big A every day, today was wonderful. We had no difficulties this morning or when I came to pick her up today. Little A started whimpering for "Melmo" when we got to Big A's school (because she knows Big A has been keeping him there) and without me having to say a word, Big A went and got her Elmo doll and gave him to Little A saying to her, "I know you love Elmo and I love that you love him." I was so touched and proud of her. I asked if Little A could keep him (thinking that if she couldn't we'd simply buy another) and Big A said she could. In reward for her generosity, I gave big A a package of foam letters and numbers to play with in the bath when we got home. Of course, it's unrealistic to think that my conflicts with Big A are over, but it's important for me to see glimmers of her other side to remind me just how special she is.

The whole world seems like a better place today. The weather was warm, sunny and glorious. I love fall! It was also the first day in 2 weeks I have felt good (good night's sleep, no sinus pain, less congestion, etc.). If only every day could be like this! But then again, I guess when you have too much of a good thing you don't appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kiddie Alfredo

The other day Big A asked me to make pasta for dinner. I was not pleased because she and Little A NEVER eat pasta when I make it, no matter how I make it. Even if she likes it, Big A will eat 2 bites and Little A will not usually even try it, she'll just scream when I put it on her tray and throw it on the floor. But if there is one thing I've learned, when it comes to food (and other things), kids are unpredictable and inconsistent. So I relented. I got home and rifled through the fridge and cupboards and came up with this recipe. To my surprise and delight, both girls loved it! Big A ate her whole serving and wanted more, but I had only made a tiny amount since I didn't think they'd actually eat it (I've multiplied the recipe here but you can half it or double it again depending on who you're making it for). Little A ate 1.5 servings. I was so shocked, I wasn't even that upset when she threw the remainder of her second serving on the floor or when she placed the bowl over her head. I left nothing to chance, but if your kids are more adventurous, you can add garlic, fresh parsley or other herbs, grilled chicken and/or veggies.

1/2 lb organic, whole grain fettuccini, broken into 1 inch pieces, cooked according to package directions (I used spelt because that's what I had open in the cupboard).
1/2 cup light cream cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Place cooked, drained pasta back in pasta pot over lowest heat on stove. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and mixed with pasta. Pour in parmesan and mix. Serve to your little ones!

Aches and Growing Pains

P1: September has been relatively quiet for me because my course for school had a pretty light course load compared to the others so far. At first I loved having some time to slow down but then I started getting nutty and feeling unproductive and worrying about the future, as I tend to do when I don't have enough to keep my mind busy. Fortunately, my new course - Counselling Methodologies--Behavioural and Cognitive Modalities has a lot more reading and assignments. In addition, I've started the next course for my certificate in miscarriage/infertility counselling and it has more reading required than any of the others have had. So I am definitely busy now. Unfortunately, I feel like crap. For the last week I have had severe sinus pain and been utterly miserable. My allergies are probably the worst they've been in 10 or 12 years. I tried Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, my steroid nasal spray and nothing gave me any relief. I was having a difficult time functioning through the pain. Finally, I went to the pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for help. He suggested I try Claritin Allergy and Sinus. I started taking it yesterday and was very quickly sinus headache free. But decongestants have a tendency to make me a bit nuts and I ended up being completely wired last night and getting hardly any sleep. So today I have no sinus pain but I am exhausted. Today I am only taking the Claritin in the morning and skipping the second daily dose and seeing if that helps me sleep. If not, I'll have to decide what's worse: excruciating pain or insomnia.

P2: Little A is doing great at daycare. She is behaving well and usually doesn't even cry when I drop her off in the morning. If she does cry, the teachers tell me it is just for a minute or two. Along with her precious stuffy, Pink Bear, she has suddenly become attached to Big A's Elmo doll. She calls him "Melmo". Big A lent it to her but today decided she wanted him back so she could sleep with him at naptime at school. I felt terrible ripping him out of her arms this morning as Adam carried her to the car to take her to my mother-in-law's, while she yelled, "Melmo!". It was heartbreaking. But it is, after all, Big A's doll.

Things with Big A have reached a tipping point. I have been reading "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee", a parenting book based on Jewish philosophy. The author talks about how important it is that your children know you are the boss. I am really trying to drive that home with her. But I often feel helpless and ineffective when I am trying to discipline her. So my friend Megan recommended that I try her friend's new consulting service. They basically do what Supernanny does and come into your home and observe your interactions with your children and give you advice and feedback. I really do feel like I need professional help!

Big A is increasingly obsessed with taking medicine and complaining of all sorts of physical ailments and it's driving Adam and I crazy. We keep trying to explain the whole "Never Cry Wolf" thing, but she doesn't care. She wants medicine for everything, she begs and pleads with us to give her some of the sugary-sweet children's Advil, Tylenol or cherry flavoured throat lozenges. Yesterday she pulled a huge stunt claiming she had a stomach ache and was very sick. We figured out she was faking because I poked her all over and asked if it hurt when I poked and she said yes regardless of where I poked her.

This morning she said nothing about it until it was time for school. All of a sudden she told me her tummy hurt even worse that yesterday and she can't go to school. She said she needed a throat lozenge because the pain started in her throat and went into her tummy. Huh? We got in a huge battle and I told her she was going, even if I had to throw her over my shoulder and carry her out of the house kicking and screaming. I asked why she did not want to go. She told me she was scared because at school they make her do things she can't do. Puzzled, I asked her to give me an example. She mentioned some puzzle. Some performance anxiety is natural, so I told her we don't expect her to be perfect and that making mistakes is how you learn. We only care that she puts in effort. I told her how much Adam and I love her and how proud we are of her. She seemed to feel better and we went to school. Once there, I mentioned to the daycare teacher what she had said. She was very surprised because apparently she doesn't express any anxiety while she is there. Before I left, Big A said again that she was scared to go to school. I tried to get her to explain why in a bit more detail but then her daycare teacher said, "Is someone bothering you?" I tried to indicate to her with gestures not to give Big A ideas (she has been known to blatantly lie). Big A told us that, yes, someone was bothering her. A girl who she had told me a few days before was her friend. "I thought she was your friend?" I said, but she replied, "She is but she distracts me when I'm doing my work." So her daycare teacher said they would sit down with this girl and have a discussion. I warned her that she better be telling the truth. I am so worried this poor girl is doing nothing of the sort and Big A will simply be alienating herself from a new friend.

F1: My newest food find is coconut milk powder! I'm obsessed with coconut products right now, apparently. Anyways, I love this stuff because it is 29 cals per tablespoon and it doesn't take much to make a recipe creamy and coconut-ty. I used it for a Caribbean style black eyed pea and cabbage curry last week and it was fantastic. I find a can of coconut milk sometimes adds too much liquid and this had more intense coconut flavour. You basically add whatever ratio of powder to water you want to make it as thick and as rich as you want. Yum!

F2: My exercise of the week is a straight leg tricep dip

Sit on the edge of a step or bench with legs extended out straight on the floor. Place your feet on another step or bench (or chair) at approximately the same height as what you are sitting on (For an added challenge, put a weight plate-start with 10 lbs and work up-on your lap). Put your hands beside you on the bench you are sitting on so your elbows are pointing back and your fingertips are wrapped around the edge. Lift your seat off the edge and use your arms to lift and lower your body by bending your elbows and then straightening them. Do at least 2 sets of 15 repetitions.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mama Carrots, Daddy Carrots and Baby Carrots

Did you know there is no such thing in nature as a baby carrot? In spite of what a lot of people think, baby carrots are not a special variety of carrots, they are regular carrots that have been cut into baby carrot form.

I absolutely HATE them. This may sound strange coming from someone who munches close to a pound of them every day. Don't get me wrong, I love carrots, I just hate the baby ones. But I eat them because they are so much more convenient. I hate them because they don't taste as good, and, in fact, often taste downright awful thanks to the way they are processed. The bags are often saturated with icky water, leaving them soggy with a kind of rotting smell and taste. They are also made from the blemished carrots that would otherwise be thrown away. Thus, I doubt they are as healthy as regular carrots either. I have declared a moratorium on baby carrots in our house before and bought only regular carrots, but then I inevitably get sick of all the peeling and chopping and start buying the baby ones again. But lately, the ones we have been getting around here are really gross. The Earthbound farm organics have looked, smelled and tasted terrible. After gagging on some last week, I decided that enough is enough. Back to regular carrots! Adam recently told me that he was complaining about the baby carrots to a colleague, who happens to also be a farmer. This guy told Adam that he would never eat a baby carrot. He also told him that he eats carrots unpeeled. I have been thinking about this and decided to give it a try. Today, instead of snacking on baby carrots before lunch at my desk, I simply washed and cut the ends off some regular, organic carrots and munched away. Verdict: yummy. Also cheaper than baby carrots, and not really any more work since I didn't peel them. End of story.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quirky or Confident? Maybe Both.

The first two days this week our mornings went unusually smoothly. Big A was fairly cooperative and we had no big blow outs. Little A has been wonderfully sweet, happy and behaved, for the most part. Unfortunately, the lucky streak ended Wednesday morning. Wednesday and Thursday with her were rough. She was grumpy, sullen and uncooperative. Thursday night she had a massive bedtime tantrum that had Adam and I tearing our hair out. Adam suspects she isn't getting enough sleep and is probably tired (we are lucky if she is sleeping by 9pm and she's been getting up by 6am). But she's also mentioned several times how much she misses her best friend, G., from her old daycare. I knew this was going to be a tough transition for her so I wonder if she is acting out because she is having adjustment difficulties? Unfortunately, there is not much we can do. We've enrolled her and G. in the same Saturday gymnastics class, which starts tomorrow, so at least they can see each other once a week. We also let her call G. one evening this week. It was her first real phone conversation with a friend. Very cute!

Big A seems to be making new friends (she was invited to a birthday party tomorrow) at her new school and daycare but I, of course, am a bit worried. Peers are so incredibly important when you're a kid and they have a tremendous impact on your development. I so want her to be well-liked and have friends. She seemed pretty popular at her old daycare so hopefully she'll find some new comrades that she'll be happy with. Yesterday Big A decided she had to wear these pretend glasses that came with her doctor set to school. They have no real lenses and have round, thick red plastic frames. They look hilarious. I thought she'd take them off when we got to school, but she still had them on when I came to pick her up at the end of the day. Her teachers were all very amused. One said to me, "I love the glasses, they are so her...very quirky." I wasn't sure I was so happy that she is being labelled as quirky. Is she quirky? Absolutely. She hates brushing her hair and prefers to leave the house with a massive rats-nest. She won't wear jeans or any pants with a button and fly (only dresses, skirts and leggings). She is obsessed with mops, brooms and dustpans and has play cleaning supplies both at home and at my in-laws. She knows all the rules of the road and often tells Adam how to drive (Go 40km here daddy, two hands on the wheel, red light!). Her "art" that she brings home is almost always just a scribble...or more recently she has started covering paper with masking tape and calling that art. And today she insisted on bringing one of her stuffed cats, dressed up in a ballet tutu, in her doll stroller to school. So yes, she is quirky. But as Adam pointed out, she is also self-confident and doesn't seem to care what other people think. I just hope that the confidence balances out the quirkiness because, at least in my experience, it was always the confident kids, or the ones who where able to give the impression that they were confident, who were popular and respected. Kids are so cruel and if they smell insecurity, they usually attack.

Some idiot dumped a huge back of styrofoam peanuts in the garbage can in the park near our house. The bag then opened and thousands of the peanuts scattered everywhere. When we walked by a few days ago I expressed my disgust, explaining to Big A that they are terrible for the environment and mentioning that I would like to clean it up. By yesterday, they had scattered even further in all directions and many of them had crumbled into little bits all over the grass and gardens. The clean up was going to be a bitch and I started to feel overwhelmed. But Big A said, "Mommy when are you going to clean up the park, you said you were going to clean it up." I realized I could not go back on my word. So tonight I spent an hour collecting as many as I could and throwing them away. Unfortunately, it was pretty impossible to get them all and I couldn't pick up the little bits at all. Nevertheless, I spent a good hour there and did my best. I think I'll call the city on Monday and see if they can finish the job.