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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sweet Sundays

This morning was the second Sunday in a row I was woken up by Big A before 6:30am (Sunday is my only sleep-in day...anything after 5am being a sleep-in for me) calling for me from the toilet because she made a poo and needed someone to help her wipe it. It's moments like these when I truly envy the single and childless. I picture them lazing in bed until 9am and then lingering over coffee and the newspaper until they can muster the energy to head to the latest hip cafe for an overpriced brunch. Actually, I'd just be grateful to have both my children sleep past 7am on the weekend. But Little A was up before 7am this morning too, fortunately, she was happy to babble and play in her crib by herself for long enough for me to wolf down a bowl of oatmeal before I went to get her.

Sundays are my favorite day. Adam takes the girls for the morning and I head to the gym for a killer weights workout and then I teach my spinning class. It's the only remnant of my former life that I still have. I know it's a long ways off, but I can't wait until the girls are able to come to the gym with me, and even take my classes. Already Big A is an athlete. She really excels in her swimming and gymnastics lessons and she even likes to walk on our treadmill at home. Adam and I already talk to her about the importance of physical activity for good health and, fortunately, she seems to really enjoy it anyways.

Little A has gone from having little interest in moving to crawling, standing and even trying to climb the stairs. I can finally see the end of the infant stage and the beginning of toddlerhood. And no, I am not thinking wistfully about how quickly her first year is going...I still can't wait for it to end! But I am getting really exciting about all the wonderful things that are still to come with her.

I guess in 20 years or so when Adam and I can sleep in on a Sunday, lazily read the paper and then head off to brunch, we might miss these days. But that's a long ways off!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow Job

It's been snowing for a while now and has finally started accumulating. It's going to be one of those days where you have to shovel the same spot like 3-4 times.

P1: I am finally feeling somewhat satisfied with the direction of my career aspirations right now. Here is the update of my plans for the near future:

1. Two more weeks until I complete my first course for my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology, then I begin my second course, Theories of Personality.

2. March 10 - Meeting with CEO or corporate research company to discuss wellness seminars and fitness classes I will do for some of their corporate clients.

3. March 17 - Meeting with miscarriage/infertility counsellor who works with my sister-in-law (the ob/gyn) to discuss mentorship opportunities. She is also the one who teaches a certificate course in this type of counselling. I think I may begin some of the courses in May when I have child care for Little A.

4. March 30 - Audition to teach fitness classes at Toronto Athletic Club. I'm very nervous about this as I haven't taught anything except spinning in a few years. Fortunately, it's a core conditioning class and I have been doing pilates, so I should be okay.

5. July - Apply for peer counselling position with Planned Parenthood.

P2: So for all of these dates I have booked above, I have Sherma, who we have hired to watch Little A 4 days a week starting at the end of April, coming to babysit her. I think this will be a good way to slowly get Little A used to being away from me and Adam. But I admit I am really anxious about it...both that Little A will be traumatized and that Sherma will quit because Little A screams the whole time. I am starting to worry that her degree of attachment is abnormal. I cannot even leave the room for a split second without her becoming hysterical.

Little A is proving to be a very spirited little girl, much like her big sister. She is currently going through the stage that Big A also went through, where the minute you try to lie her on her back to dress her or change her diaper, she starts screaming, flips over, and starts crawling away. She also bit me on the arm yesterday when I was trying to put her in her snowsuit!

Big A has a terrible cold, making her incredibly miserable. She is so congested, she had to repeat herself 8 times this morning, until she was in tears, to ask me for her bunny mittens, because I couldn't understand what she was saying. She also has a sore throat. So I bought her Vicks Vaporub and Sucrets for kids. There aren't many options for kids because you are not supposed to give them liquid cough or cold medication anymore. The Sucrets are supposed to be for kids 6+ but my sister-in-law (the doctor) said I could give her some in moderation, especially because she is very big for her age. Unfortunately, she LOVES the taste so now I fear she will have a sore throat every day until she is 16. Again, it's so hard to know when something really is wrong with your kids!

Oh well, my own experience proves that Sucrets are relatively harmless. In the absence of other candy, my friend Rachelle and I used to eat like 4-5 cherry Sucrets at a time. I remember sucking on them on jumping on her bed (Oy, eating medicine like candy AND doing so while jumping on the bed, recipe for catastrophe - what would our mothers think???). Well, we survived. This also reminds me of the favorite game Rachelle and I had (we were very strange children), which involved putting her parents' comforter over our heads and walking down the stairs to see if we could do it without tripping and falling. We generally did fall and tumble to the bottom of the stairs in a fit of giggles. Somehow the carpeting at the bottom and the comforter itself seemed to ensure we never actually hurt ourselves. Nevertheless, if I saw my kids jumping on the bed sucking on medicine or going down stairs with a blanket over their heads, I'd FREAK!

F1: Here are some of the things I'm cooking up this weekend: Pasta with a creamy roasted red pepper sauce and Thai green chicken curry. For the pasta sauce, I use silken tofu instead of cream because Adam won't eat a cream-based sauce. He is weird about dairy. He HATES cheese and will only eat it on pizza, he loves yogurt, milk and ice cream, but he won't touch any sauce made with milk, cream or sour cream. Oh well, this is a good trick for vegans.

Pasta with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

1 lb whole wheat short pasta (fusilli, rotini, penne, rigatoni, etc.)

12 oz silken tofu
1 jar roasted red peppers with liquid
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper, to taste

Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Add a bit of the cooking water from pasta to thin out a bit. When pasta is done, toss with a bit of olive oil and then pour sauce over top and mix through. Top with veggies of your choice (sometimes I do steamed asparagus but this weekend it will be rapini again, sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic) and plenty of parmesan cheese.

Thai Green Chicken Curry:

1 lb boneless/skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbls Thai green curry paste (different brands have different levels of heat from none to scorching, so taste before using and adjust amount accordingly)
2 tbls chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls fish sauce
2 dozen mushrooms, cut in half
2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers
1 head of broccoli, lightly steamed
1 can light coconut milk
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced

Add a tsp of veg oil to pan, if using chicken breasts. Cook chicken over medium heat until starting to brown, but is not entirely cooked through. Add curry paste, ginger and garlic, cook another minute or so. Add fish sauce and veggies and then cook, stirring frequently for another 3-4 minutes. Add coconut milk and turn heat down to medium low. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Add green onions at the last minute. Serve over brown rice.

Note: I rarely will specify adding salt to a recipe because everyone is trying to avoid sodium these days and it is really a matter of personal preference. But when making a sauce with tofu, you really need some to bring out the flavour. The Thai curry needs no additional salt because the fish sauce is very salty.

Rice is one of my favorite foods, we eat TONS of it in our house. I'll eat white rice at a restaurant but only make brown at home. Brown basmati is wonderful with Indian food and I often use a Korean short grain (slightly sticky) rice for things like Thai curry. But pretty much any rice will do with my recipes.

F2: Today during my workout I was able to do one set of 4 chin ups and then a set of 5 chin ups! I'm so proud of myself (and thanks for the tip Elin!).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cardio Machines

People get very attached to particular cardio machines, I've noticed. One of my pet peeves is seeing people come to the gym and get on the same machines and do the same workout every time, especially, when they are using the least efficient machines there. It seems like such a waste of time because they are unlikely to be getting much out of their workouts after a very short period of time.

First off, you should be changing up your workout as often as possible. Your body adapts to the demands placed on it very quickly. So if you aren't able to increase the time or intensity of your workout, at least change another variable. Alter the incline on the treadmill, do intervals instead of steady state training on the stairmaster, etc.

Second of all...and I know I'll piss people off with this one, unless you are injured, pregnant or over age 60, get off the elliptical!!!! They are the least efficient machines in the gym and they do not mimic any real life activity. Most people (there are some very self-motivated people for whom this may not stand true) do not push very hard on these machines and they are inherently less intense than some of the other machines because they are not weight-bearing. If you can do weight-bearing activities, you should, because they are generally more efficient calorie burners and they will help to strengthen your bones. I feel similarly about stationary bikes. If you are able to do something else, do something else.

My recommendations are:

#1 - The treadmill. Running, of course, is one of the most efficient activities out there. If you can't run, however, walking is equally as good. Just make sure you walk as fast and on as steep an incline for as long as you can.

#2 - The stepmill. This is like a treadmill with rotating stairs. They are massive, tall machines, made by the Stairmaster company, which can be found in an increasing number of gyms. These machines kick butt! They are also low-impact, however, some people with certain types of knee problems, find stair climbing painful. If I could afford one and had the space in my house, I would totally buy one of these, they are fantabulous. I think the reason they are not more popular, is people find them intimidating. Don't! If your gym has one, USE IT!

#3 - The Stairmaster. Now I am talking about the thin, upright machines with two pedals. Personally, I only like the ones made by the Stairmaster brand, but there are probably some other decent ones out there. Just don't lean your weight on the machine!!! Same goes for the stepmill, by the way.

So if you are a gym goer and you are trying to make the most of your time at the gym, these are my recommendations to you. And, of course, don't forget strength training and flexibility training as part of your fitness regimen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Berman's Bean&Veggie Burritos

We eat a lot of beans in this house, as well as tons of fruits, veggies and whole grains. It's no wonder we're a gassy bunch. Oh well, that's the price you pay for eating healthy foods. These are really yummy...just make sure everyone in the household eats them so you're all on equal ground. Otherwise, you might want to consider sleeping alone.

The beans makes enough for 4 large tortillas but this recipe makes TONS of veggies. We love them, cooking the onions and peppers down brings out their natural sweetness, which is enhanced by the tomato paste. After stuffing the tortillas with them, we smother more over the top, but you can always save the extra for another day. You can top a baked potato with them or add grilled chicken and make chicken fajitas.

Refried beans:

1 can black beans or pinto beans, drained
1 roma tomato, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbls chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch cayenne (optional)

Veggies:
1 tsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion
1 purple onion
2 tbls cider vinegar
2 red and 2 green bell peppers, cut into strips
1 jalepeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbls chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can tomato paste

Mash beans in small saucepan (I like to leave some texture) over low heat. Add all remaining ingredients and stir.

Saute onions in oil over medium heat until softened. Once oil has been absorbed, add vinegar and cook another few minutes. Add peppers, garlic and spices and continue cooking until peppers soften. Turn heat to low and add tomato paste. Cook another 15-20 minutes.

Spread beans on whole wheat tortillas and fill with pepper mixture. Sprinkle with jack cheese before folding up. Smother more peppers and onions over the top if desired.

Fitness Trends

I thought I'd devote a whole post to the topic of fitness since I promised to share my knowledge in this area on the blog but haven't done much of that yet. Here's my commentary on fitness trends.

Fitness, like any other commercial industry, is subject to trends. Unfortunately, I have found that this leads people to fixate on one type of activity, and in order to attain optimal fitness, you need to participate in a variety of activities. There are several main components of fitness: muscle strength and endurance, cardiovascular ability and flexibility. Any fitness program should contain elements of each. But, unfortunately, too many people will jump on the bandwagon of the latest fitness craze and focus on one element, to the exclusion of others.

In the 70's and 80's there was an obsession with high impact cardiovascular activities which ended up taking a toll on enthusiasts joints. With the advent of the STEP in the 90's, group exercise classes became more balanced, encorporating low impact activities and muscle conditioning. At the beginning of this decade, when yoga and pilates became all the rage, however, too many people threw away cardiovascular activity altogether, to pursue these new gentler, "mind-body" activities. While I love both yoga and pilates, and believe they each have tremendous value, they do not sufficiently improve cardiovascular ability or muscle strength. And in a time when obesity is a growing concern, they are not efficient means of burning fat or losing weight.

Spinning is another big trend in fitness. It has added a wonderful alternative for people looking for an intense cardiovascular workout that is non-impact and doesn't require participants to learn complex choreography. Unfortunately, devotees often use it as their sole form of cardiovascular activity. Spinning is wonderful, but it lacks the variety of movement that makes other cardio classes so valuable. Aerobics, STEP, Zumba and other forms of group fitness utilize a variety of muscle groups and force participants to move in all planes of motion (front and back, side-to-side, etc.).

Essentially, the ideal fitness regimen includes activities that focus on all the major components of fitness. In addition, you want to mix it up as much as possible. Keeping your body guessing is the best way to get stronger and make progress. Work your body in as many different ways as possible. This could mean always changing the weight exercises you do, or the amount of weight you lift, or the number of repetitions or sets of repetitions you complete. You should also encorporate as many different cardiovascular activities as possible.

Fortunately, the industry, recently, seems to have diversified. People are now flocking to Zumba (Latin dance inspired classes) or BodyPump classes as often as they are to spinning and yoga. There seems to be a growing understanding that it is important to address all the components of fitness. Let's just hope this continues, no telling what the next fitness trend will be or where it will take people...

Next time I'll give you my two-cents on cardio machines.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Playing Favorites

My parents may tell me differently, but I don't recall having a favourite parent when I was a little kid. I do recall preferring to go to the mall with my father, however, because he could always be persuaded to take me to Marks and Spencer to buy a bag of licorice allsorts or wine gums which we would joyfully share together. My mother wasn't always as willing. If my parents favoured my brother or I, they hid it well and I would say they did a fairly good job of appreciating our differing strengths and weaknesses.

But playing favorites in our family seems to have become the norm. And no, I don't mean Adam and I have a favorite child. I mean our children play favorites. Big A seemed to like us equally until she was about 18 months old. Even though I nourished her from my own body, she never really preferred me to Adam. But from about 18 months until about 2 months ago, she overtly preferred Adam. And believe me, this is not insecurity on my part making me see things a certain way. I can't count how many times I walked into a room and was told by her, "Go away mommy, we don't want you here!" She would also tell other people that daddy was her favorite. But the worst occurred after Little A was born. Adam was home the first 6 weeks while I recovered from my c-section to take her to daycare everyday. This was the first time in her life that he was home in the mornings when she woke up on a regular basis. When I resumed the duty of daycare drop-off and Adam began leaving for work before she would wake up, chaos ensued. When she would call for him in the morning and I would open her door, she would fly into a rage and become sullen and uncooperative because I was not daddy. Sometimes she would snap out of it quickly, other times the whole morning was a misery. This went on for some months and was very trying to deal with while I also got used to managing an infant at the same time. I tried not to take this all personally but it really did start to wear me down. Was I really such a bad parent?

Gradually, over the past few months, however, things have started to turn around. Big A is so much more affectionate with me. She always tells me she loves me and asks for, and gives, lots of hugs and kisses. She also requests me now, quite often, to give her a bath, sit with her, cuddle, over daddy. I love it and I admit, I am also relieved. I fully expect her to hate me as a teenager but I hope to have at least a few years of love between us before that point.

Little A, on the other hand, has been a momma's girl from day one. But I am learning that this too, has its drawbacks. Even if she is playing with Adam, she whimpers if I leave the room. At almost 10 months, she will rarely ever let anyone else hold her. If Adam is not around, I cannot, under any circumstance, leave the room for even a split second, without her becoming absolutely hysterical. I am starting to worry that when we put her in child care in April, she will be truly traumatized. And so, of course, this is yet another issue I obsess and worry about. Yet, rationally, I know that things will even out eventually. Just ast they did with Big A. You can't stop your kids from hating you during adolescence, from what I hear, and I suppose you cannot stop them from loving you either. Which is not such a bad thing in the end.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm a cool parent, aren't I?

P1: Aside from my phone meeting set up with my ob/gyn today, I have another phone meeting with someone from the corporate wellness company to discuss doing seminars and fitness classes. I also got an email back from a counsellor I contacted, who specializes in infertility, post-trauma and grief, who works with my sister-in-law (my brother's wife) at the fertility clinic where she works (she's an ob/gyn too!). She said she would be happy to meet with me to discuss volunteer/mentorship opportunities AND she informed me that she teaches an online certificate program in infertility counselling. It is probably critical that I do this certificate and I'm thinking that it may even be possible to do it concurrently with my program, once I have child-care for Little A.

P2: The past few mornings, the girls have been so affectionate with one another. There is really little that warms my heart more. Little A will lean into Big A, who will wrap her arms around Little A and Little A will start to make almost a purring sound, with a big smile on her face. It is so precious!

When I was a kid, I was disappointed by the fact that my parents were not cool. They were, in the sense that they allowed my brother and I a lot of freedom as teenagers. We always had generous curfews, never got grounded and were never forbidden from going to a party or social event. As long as we called them and told them where we were, never got in the car with someone who had been drinking and never walked home alone (at least in my case, they probably didn't worry about this with my bro), my parents were satisfied. And because of this, they earned our respect and we reciprocated by being (relatively) trustworthy. But because my parents were so cerebral, they just weren't cool in other ways. Being into literature, classical music, wine, politics and art is not hip to most kids. My parents were also not much into athletic pursuits or fashion and had little interest in the popular culture my brother and I enjoyed. I remember being thrilled to learn my dad liked my Huey Lewis and the News albums when I was in 7th grade, because it was so rare for us to share something like that. So as a kid, I vowed to be a cool parent when I grew up, who was "up" on all the latest stuff.

Well, according to Adam, so far I am not living up to my goal. First of all, people don't use the term cool anymore, from what I understand. Instead the kids say something is, "phat" or "sick", which seems ridiculous to me. I hope I'm not setting up my kids to be dorks because Big A now always says, "Look mommy, isn't this cool?" I should probably be teaching her the proper lingo for her generation. Second, when I open the entertainment section of the paper, I have no idea who half the people are that are in there. I've heard of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Jared Ledo but I don't really know who they are or what they've done. But my kids aren't into that stuff yet, so I have lots of time to do my homework. Doesn't in count that I know who Dora the Explorer is? And Max and Ruby and Caillou? Because these are the things that Big A is into right now and I am all up on that stuff!

Speaking of popular culture for preschoolers, I have to mention In The Night Garden. If you have a child between 2-5 years old, you may be familiar with this show. If you're not, Google it and take a look at the website. Okay, I am certain that this show, from Britain, was created by someone on crack-cocaine. It is also like crack-cocaine for kids. Big A is not a huge consumer of television. She likes it on, but often gets bored by the programs very quickly. She is more interested in creative play these days, which is wonderful. But In The Night Garden is a different story. When she watches it, it's almost like she's in a trance. Adam and I, frankly, find it disturbing. I can't even begin to describe it so if you don't know what I'm talking about, you really have to look it up on the Internet.

Anyways, back to me being a cool parent...I'm hoping that the fact that I shop at H&M, and Gap, and Jacob and Lululemon (rather than Brooks Brothers and Tilley like my own parents) and love rock and alternative music (even if most of it is from a few decades ago!), makes me just a bit hipper than my parents were. Either way, my brother assures me that no matter what, my own children will never think I'm cool...or phat...or sick, or whatever!

F1: I'm so glad my appetite is coming back and I'm finally starting to feel better because tonight's dinner is one of my favorites. I call it Sunflower Chicken. It's really just stir fried chicken and veggies with a twist on an Asian peanut sauce. But it is devine and one of Adam's favorites too. You can easily make it with beef or with tofu, to make it vegetarian. Since I rarely use chicken breasts in my cooking, I usually brown the meat without adding oil to the pan, but if you use breasts, I would start with a tsp of vegetable oil.

Sunflower Chicken

1 lb ground chicken or turkey or skinless/boneless breasts or thighs
2-3 yellow, orange and/or red bell peppers
1 head broccoli, cut into florets and lightly steamed
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup ginger, finely chopped (less if you don't love ginger like I do!)
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
chili flakes (to taste - we love ours to have heat, so I add a lot)
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (or pumpkin seed butter)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbls tomato paste or ketchup

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a medium sized bowl and stir until smooth (sauce will be very thick).

Stir fry meat in a wok or large frying pan until almost cooked through. Add peppers and cook about 5 more minutes. Add steamed broccoli and then the sauce. Turn down the heat and toss to combine everything, cooking for another few minutes. Add green onions at the last minute. Serve over brown rice.

Note: The sauce is very thick, which makes it sort of dry once it is absorbed by the meat and the veggies. I like it that way, but if you don't, you can thin out the sauce with water or make extra to add at the last minute.

F2: I finally had a good night sleep last night and woke up feeling better. So I was able to get up at my usual time and do my treadmill workout. Hurray! First time since last week!! Hopefully I'm on the mend and back to normal so I can go back to working on improving my chin ups!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Neighbourhood

Thursdays my mom's group meets. It's so great to have other moms in the neighbourhood to hang out with, especially since we live in a very uncool Toronto neighbourhood. I don't know why. It's very centrally located, close to public transit, has lots of parks and green spaces, a farmer's market, a great family run grocery store that carries a lot of interesting local and organic products, and has several other grocery stores, daycares and schools in the area. But it is so uncool, it doesn't even have a name. On most city maps, it remains unlabelled. Just a blank space. Occasionally it is referred to as the "Christie Pits" neighbourhood, after the large, well-known park in the area. However, as one mom in my mom's group put it, "You never really want to be living in a place that has 'pits' as part of the name." Oh well, as Adam always points out, the unpopularity of our neighbourhood keeps our property tax lower.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When It Rains It Pours!

P1: After feeling pretty discouraged about finding either paid or volunteer work for the spring, all of a sudden things have sprung up!

My ob/gyn's assistant called and rescheduled our phone meeting for this Friday at 10am. Of course, I know an emergency could interfere again, but at least we have the meeting rescheduled and hopefully a volunteer opportunity will come out of it.

A corporate fitness company I applied to emailed me back to ask if I would be interested in doing wellness seminars and/or teaching some fitness classes for them. Unfortunately, many of their locations are in the "GTA" rather than downtown, so it would likely require quite a bit of driving. But it sounds very interesting and perhaps just what I need.

I had an interview today for a position at the gym where I already teach spinning. They are looking for someone to coordinate the fitness classes and special events. It was previously a full-time position, which would not be ideal for me at this point, but they may be splitting the position into two part-time positions. I know they already interviewed a few people and I think they may have other people in mind, but it was good to do the interview anyways. Little A had to come with me again and she happily played on the floor of the office during the interview and then had one of her explosive poos. The second one of the day (we're on outfit #3 already!). I also spoke to a good friend of mine who works at a school in the community centre and does the nutrition counselling as part of a multidisciplinary program the gym is offering. She is going to offer up my volunteer counselling services to her clients who are enrolled in this program. Wow, all of a sudden things are looking up!

P2: Little A had a good breakfast but ate only watermelon and a few small bites of cheese for lunch. With all of these huge poos, I fear she is losing weight. I've left a message for her doctor to find out if we should discontinue her iron supplement. She has had a short, unsettled afternoon nap and is crying for me already after less than an hour. Frustrating because I woke up at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep until 5am, at which point she woke me for a feeding and that was it for me. So I'm TIRED.

F1: I still have no appetite and mild nausea so I'm not sure I'll be making the spinach and chickpea curry I planned tonight. But here is the recipe anyways.

Spinach and Chickpea Curry

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbls fresh ginger, minced or chopped
1 tsp cumin seed
4 tbls good quality curry powder
1/4 cup cider vinegar or lemon juice
500 grams fresh or frozen/defrosted spinach, chopped finely
1 can tomato paste
1 large can chickpeas, drained

Saute onion, garlic and ginger and cumin in oil over medium heat about 5-6 minutes. Add curry powder and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Add vinegar or lemon juice and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Add spinach, tomato paste and chickpeas and let simmer another 15-20 minutes. Add water if it gets too dry. Serve over brown rice.


F2: I skipped my workout again today as I'm still not fully recovered and didn't sleep well. I crawled out of bed just before 7am again, which for me, is a major "sleep in".

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Family Daze

Yesterday was Family Day, the new Ontario holiday, and it certainly was a family day for us. Because of all the germs floating around, we pretty much hung out altogether at home all day, which rarely happens. We, unfortunately, had to cancel the 2 playdates we had, that I was really looking forward to, and I know Big A was disappointed too. But in the end, I was not fully recovered from my puke-fest on Valentine's, Big A threw up once, Adam still has a terrible cold and Little A keeps making these diaper explosives that require immediate baths and a change of clothes. I'm not sure if she has a bit of the tummy bug too or if this is due to the iron supplement we have started to give her because of her paltry diet. However, I thought iron is supposed to make you constipated?? So aside from when my in-laws took us out for lunch to a local cafe, to get the girls out of the house, we were all at home taking it easy. It's the taking it easy that is so rare. When the girls napped in the afternoon, Adam and I laid down too. Normally, that is when I race around trying to get as much accomplished as possible. But I just wasn't up to that. When Little A woke up from her afternoon nap, Big A was still sleeping, so Adam and I just sat around watching Little A play happily. We finally had to wake Big A at 5:20pm (she fights naps and we generally can't get her down until 2:30pm, but then she'll easily sleep for 3 hours and we end up having to wake her) and by that time, Little A needed a change of scene. So Adam took her for a ride in the car to get gas and a car wash. I stayed with Big A and we had some great quality time. I gave her a bubble bath and then got her all ready in her pajamas and bathrobe and we hung out until Adam and Little A got home. Big A was pretty subdued at this point and said her tummy still hurt so we set her up in front of the t.v. with the Sesame Street movie we rented her from Blockbuster. Considering how awful Adam and I were both feeling yesterday, it was a pretty good day and the girls were incredibly well-behaved. I know that Big A likes nothing more than to hang around the house with her toys and have both mommy and daddy around and accessible. I have to remember to slow down and stop being so task-oriented when I'm with the girls. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes getting sick to realize these things.

Of course, a good day always comes at a price! I slept in again this morning, forgoing a workout or any other activity before the girls got up, and just climbed out of bed at 6:45am, with enough time to have a shower before the girls woke up at 7am (I should note that Big A woke us at 4 something to pee and Little A woke us at 5 something to breastfeed). Adam left for work before I even got out of bed so it was just us 3 girls and we were having a great morning until it was time to take Big A to daycare. She wouldn't put on her boots and starting having a major meltdown. I picked her up and started trying to strap her in the stroller and she began kicking me. This means she gets a sad face on her "Morning Cooperation" chart (if she gets 7 happy faces in a row, she gets a prize) and, I told her, no playing go fish with the playing cards tonight (Go fish is her favorite game). We left the house and Big A shrieked half the way there about how I had hurt her elbow when I put her in the stroller (Can't imagine what the neighbours think!!) then started screaming that her nose was running, until I found a wipe under the stroller for her, and then she finally calmed down. By the time we got to the daycare she was back to being in a fine and cooperative mood. I know that this happens after almost every long weekend or weekend when she has an especially good time. So I said, "Are you misbehaving because we had a nice weekend and you don't want to go to daycare?" And she said, "Yes." So I told her there would be lots more fun weekends and there was no reason to act out because this one was over. Not sure if a 3.75 year old can comprehend that, but I tried.

As for Little A, she has been in a fantastic mood and she had a great breakfast today but then something weird happened. We went to the mall and had a great time. But when we got home, I put her down so I could take off our coats and she started crying. So I took her to the kitchen and put her in her booster to eat lunch and she just got absolutely hysterical. I had to take her out and she still didn't calm down. So I figured I'd offer her the boob just to calm her down. Well she ended up nursing for an HOUR! This is a baby who never usually nurses for more than 10 minutes. Sheesh! So now is she really going to eat lunch? Is she teething? What makes taking care of babies so difficult is the fact that they don't talk, ya know? If only she could tell me what's going on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ha Ha Ha Happy Valentine's Day!

Well, this day didn't turn out quite as planned. I came down with the stomach flu and was bedridden from 2pm yesterday until today. Needless to say, our Belgian waffle dinner didn't happen. I could hardly get down gingerale. I'm feeling better today but definitely not 100%. Adam now thinks he might be coming down with it and given how grumpy Little A was when she woke up this morning, we're worried she isn't feeling well either. She hardly ate anything for breakfast today (a few chunks of kiwi and a few cheerios), but that could be just her being her picky self. Hopefully her mood is improved when she gets up from her nap. We're all home today because it's Family Day and I have to say, Big A has been wonderful. She's been playing imaginary games by herself and some that include Adam as a participant. Unfortunately, all 3 floors of the house now look like a cyclone has hit them because there are toys EVERYWHERE!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bathroom Humour

So one thing that I love about having kids is it gives you ample excuse to discuss certain bodily functions. I will admit it right now: I have a juvenile appreciation for bathroom humour! I find belches, farts and poop extremely amusing. I come by it honestly as my whole family has the same appreciation, to various degrees. I can recall my brother and I burping the alphabet at the dinner table as teenagers as my parents tried to admonish us while laughing.

So here's a good story. Today Little A did something that I would say ranks as the grossed thing either of my children have done to-date (this beats Big A pooping on my face when she was 3 weeks old and Little A spitting up into my mouth when she was a few months old). She had just woken up from her nap, and Adam went and got her. He took her out of her crib and put her on the floor to play with some toys. All of a sudden he heard a flurry of "diaper activity". I then very quickly heard him call me, "Oh my goodness, oh my...she needs to have a bath RIGHT NOW!". I thought he must be exaggerating but he brought a smiling Little A into the bathroom and I could not believe my eyes. Her pastel pink and green striped outfit had turned brown up to her armpits. The onesy underneath the outfit was no longer white. It took 2 of us to peel off the filthy clothes and dump her in the tub. The diaper was full of, what we can only guess was undigested red grapes, along with everything else. I had to run her clothes, which I contemplated just throwing away, down to the laundry room to be soaked out in the sink and then liberally doused with (environmentally friendly) detergent and spot remover. The best part was how incredibly happy Little A was through the whole process, she seemed to think it was all very funny. I've probably disgusted most of you, but I think it's funny too! Ha ha!

On the fast track to nowhere!

The meeting with Dr. M, my ob/gyn, never happened yesterday. Waah! Her assistant told me she got "tied up". This could mean she was just saving a life or two, or something insignificant like that. Not surprising but very disappointing. Hopefully we can reschedule. But that leaves me no more closer to figuring things out for my near future...and I HATE uncertainty.

Friday, February 12, 2010

TGIF

P1: Meeting with my ob/gyn from Mount Sinai today...hopefully we can arrange a volunteer counselling opportunity for me, I'll keep you posted! Fridays Adam takes the girls to his mom's or grandmother's for an early dinner so I get time for school work. At 5:30pm every Friday my group from my class gets together for a "virtual" meeting to discuss our group projects. We have completed 3 and have just one more to go. Yay group!

P2: Although Little A was up for the day at 6:40am, things went pretty smoothly. I left her babbling in her crib until Big A got up at 7am. Unfortunately, I had to make Big A her breakfast while holding Little A in one arm. When people at the gym ask me how my arms got so strong, I tell them it's the kids...I'm sure of it!

I was pleased that Big A chose a no sugar breakfast today of oatmeal with banana and cinnamon because they are celebrating Valentine's at daycare today, which means all the parents bring candy for the other kids. This annoys me every year. Luckily, the daycare gives the bag of treats to the parents at the end of the day, rather than letting the kids have all the junk there. But Big A is at the age where we can only take so much of it away without her protesting. Usually I buy paper Valentine cards (also a stupid waste of money and paper), but that requires me to fill out each child's name on a Valentine and I just didn't have time. So I actually bought lollipops to give out to the other kids. I figure this is revenge for sugaring up my child the past few years. And besides, we learned at Halloween that Big A actually prefers giving out candy to other kids over eating it herself. Who knew? Nevertheless, I know she is going to come home with a bag FULL of chocolate and candies. I try not to be too strict and let her have a few treats before I hide the rest. She really doesn't eat much junk. She's totally forgotten about all her Halloween candy so I'm sure she'll forget about whatever Valentine's treats she doesn't eat this weekend too.

Little A has suddenly decided she doesn't like banana anymore. After her blueberries and bread and almond butter this morning she tossed the banana pieces on the floor. I tried giving her mango chunks but I think they looked too much like the banana, so those went on the floor too, without her even trying them. So I gave in and cut up some cantaloupe for her, which is one of her favorites. But for some reason, with cantaloupe and watermelon, she shoves as much as she can in her mouth at once and then just hordes it there. She kept it in her mouth all morning until I nursed her before her nap when she finally realized she would have to swallow it. Very weird...

Fridays are good days. Little A and I have music class, but it's always a rush to get there because Little A usually naps until about 11:30am and the class is at 11:45am. She also hasn't had a poo yet, which is not a good sign. Knowing my luck, she is going to make a big one in the stroller while I am racing to get to music class.

F1: I'm making two Valentine's dinners for Adam and I this weekend, one savoury and one sweet. I often make "breakfast for dinner" because it's basically a guilt-free way to eat dessert for dinner. Saturday is going to be braised short ribs (I limit our red meat consumption to about once a month) over organic, whole wheat paparadelle pasta in a tomato sauce with rapini (I love rapini!), artichokes and black olives. Sunday's dinner is Mexican chocolate waffles with dulche de leche, sliced fruit and veggie breakfast sausages. Yum! I try not to eat too much processed food, but there are some veggie meats that I love: Tofurky sausages and deli meats and Yves breakfast sausages, veggie dogs, salami and pepperoni. They are high in sodium but also have tons of B12 and iron and don't have the nitrites and other crap that are in processed animal products. Also, the latest research on soy protein consumption is positive, showing no ill-effects. So there, that's my justification for eating them!

Mexican Chocolate Waffles

2 1/4 cups Bob's Mill Whole Grain 10 Grain waffle mix (or any whole grain waffle mix)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbls sugar or any kind of sweetener (agave, honey, etc)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 tsp vanilla
2+ cups water

Dulce de leche (I bought President's Choice from Loblaws but you could make your own)
Sliced fruit (strawberries, bananas, figs, etc.)


Mix all ingredients except water together with whisk, add water a bit at a time. Don't make batter too thin or it will ooze out of waffle maker and make a big mess. Ladle into waffle maker and bake until done (as per your waffle maker instructions).

Makes 4 large Belgian waffles

F2: Fridays and Saturdays I do my treadmill workout. This morning I was up before my alarm because: (1) the Globe and Mail was thrown at our door at 3:50am (yes, I'm not kidding!), making such a big thud, it woke me and, (2) half an hour later Little A woke up for her early morning breastfeeding. Sleeping past 5am seems like a luxury I will never have again! I would rather run outdoors, in case you are wondering, but my knees won't allow it. But that's okay, walking briskly enough on an incline is actually less efficient (i.e. more intense) than jogging. I am also pleased to be able to watch CitiLine reruns, from the day before, while I walk. I am gaga for home reno/real estate shows, and CitiLine has delicious home makeover stuff. One of my guilty pleasures is HGTV. Love it, love it! Also, it being Friday, the Globe has it's Real Estate section, which I adore. Nothing like pouring over it while eating my breakfast.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sneaky Muffin Recipe for Picky Eaters

A lot of moms have asked me for this recipe. I came up with the idea as a way to use up all the pureed fruits and veggies I had in the freezer that Little A wouldn't eat. Big A helped me make them and the experience showed me that I can start giving her more control (sometimes). Normally when we bake together, she really just watches me because I am too worried she will make a mess or screw something up. This time, I allowed her to fill all the muffin cups herself and she did an amazing job. No mess! I was so proud of her! Turns out that both Little A and Big A love these muffins, which is great, because they are super healthy and have NO added sweeteners of any kind.

5-6 cups pureed cooked organic fruits and veggies [make sure you have a good ratio of naturally sweet ones (carrots, sweet potato, corn, apples, pears, peaches, etc.) to the others (broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, etc.)]
2 eggs
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups organic whole wheat flour
1/4 cup organic ground flax seeds
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Whisk together all wet ingredients and flax seeds in big mixing bowl. Stir together dry ingredients and add to wet. Stir just until combined. Fill muffin cups (sprayed with cooking spray or buttered) 3/4 full and bake at 400 degrees. Check after 16 minutes and bake until done (until toothpick comes out clean). Cool on wire rack and freeze. Defrost when needed.

Makes about 48 muffins.

Cold, Flu or Deadly Disease?

P1: Tomorrow I have my phone meeting with my ob/gyn to discuss volunteering at Mount Sinai. Regardless of how this turns out, I have another plan for getting relevant volunteer counselling experience: Planned Parenthood of Toronto! They have a peer counselling program, which involves a 10 week training program in September. Unfortunately, it is apparently quite competitive, so I'll have to apply this summer...fingers crossed I get accepted! It's the flip side of the reproductive health counselling I want to do, but would be excellent experience, nonetheless.

P2: Another major challenge of parenting young children I seem to face daily, is knowing when something is seriously wrong with them versus normal, developmental challenges. Yesterday when Little A and I picked up Big A from daycare, her teacher warned me that she had not taken a nap and was "on a short fuse". Great! She certainly was grumpy so I told her she was tired from not napping, and would feel better once she got in the stroller. But she said, "No, I'm not tired, I just don't feel like myself." That set my alarm bells off! What does that mean when a 3.75 year old says that? Leukemia, a brain tumour? What other catastrophic things can I think of? Well half way through the trip home, I peeked into the stroller and she was asleep. And when we got home she was snoring soundly. It took me about 5 minutes to rouse her, after which, she was actually in a better mood and didn't say anything more about not feeling well. However, later before bed she repeated the same statement to Adam, about not feeling like herself. This morning she was great until it was time to get ready for daycare, then she became defiant and oppositional with me (which isn't at all unusual), but when I asked her why she was suddenly acting out, she said again, that she wasn't feeling better, and was still not feeling like herself. Ugh! More panic on my part! I asked her if something was hurting and she said yes, her throat was hurting. Okay, well maybe she just has Adam's cold? I gave her some children's ibuprofin and that seemed to cheer her up. She was fine until we got to daycare when she melted down about having forgotten to bring a stuffed animal to sleep with at naptime. So I still sit here wondering, is she sick? Was she just trying to get out of going to daycare? Is something else wrong? You see, the thing is, Big A LOVES taking medicine, she LOVES going to the doctor and she LOVES being able to stay home all day and not have to go to daycare. She has previously complained of all sorts of pains and ailments, which mysteriously disappear as quickly as they started, just so we will take her to her doctor. So how do I know if something is really wrong?

F1: Tuesdays and Thursdays are no-cook days for me. So dinner is always leftovers and/or easy stuff like chicken or veggie burgers, veggies dogs, or grilled cheese with salad or steamed vegetables. But I've got some super yummy special dinners planned for this weekend, it being Valentines Day and all. More on those later...

F2: Had a good workout this morning. I banished Adam and his cold to the spare room last night so I got some sleep. Tuesdays and Thursdays I do 30 mins of intervals on the stairmaster plus 15 minute cool-down and then 20 minutes of weights. I read the magazines I subscribe to while on the stairmaster (Chatelaine, Canadian Living, Nutrition Action Newsletter). Yes, I know, lots of people say reading while on cardio machines compromises your effort but I don't feel this is the case for me, and frankly, even if it is, I don't care. It's the only chance I have to read my magazines. The 15 minute cool-down is just to give me extra time to read ;) And today I finally managed to do 4 chin ups! Probably more like 3.75, actually, I don't think I got up all the way on the last one. Oh well, it's still progress.

In case you're wondering, we have a pretty kick-ass home gym: Treadmill, stairmaster, universal weight machine, free-weights (3-50 lbs), a bosu ball, 2 stability balls, 2 step benches, bands, chin up bar, yoga mat, yoga blocks, pilates squishy ball and ab roller.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February Blahs

P1: I met with the volunteer coordinator from Circle of Care yesterday and it looks like I'll be starting as a "phone pal" in the next few weeks. I am looking forward to this, although seniors are not my target population for my counselling practice, I have always enjoyed working with them. Unfortunately, the sitter I booked to come watch Little A while I had this meeting, cancelled at the last minute so I had to bring Little A with me. Lucky for me, the woman was amazingly accomodating and understanding (she even let me change a stinky diaper on the floor of her office!), and loves babies AND Little A was wonderful. In fact, Little A has been an absolute ray of sunshine the past few days and has finally started crawling!!

P2: After a rough start to the week on Monday, the girls have been great the last couple mornings. This morning I brought Little A down for her morning nursing but she was more interested in Big A. So Big A started to tickle her and Little A started laughing hysterically. I have to admit, there is nothing cuter than hearing a baby laugh and it warms my heart to see how much the girls adore each other. I hope it continues as they get older.

One of the toughest things about being a parent is maintaining control when you need to and letting go of it when appropriate. I have difficulty with both. Big A used to manipulate me constantly because I was always trying to negotiate with her. It took until a few months ago for me to learn how to stand my ground and not get walked all over by a toddler/preschooler. Also, my obsessive perfectionism makes it difficult for me to let go of control, and this is becoming increasingly an issue as Big A tries more and more to establish independence. She wants to try and do everything herself and in her own way. I have had to learn to bite my tongue when she wants to leave the house with her hair looking like a rats-nest or wear some strange outfit. Right now I'm fighting the urge to rearrange the wall art she insisted on hanging in her room herself the other night. Already she had a huge tree mural, flowers, butterflies and various animals which I have carefully hung all over the walls but she decided she wanted more and she wanted to apply these ones herself. So we went to the store and instead of the girly dragon and princess set I thought would match well with the rest, she wanted the one with trains, trucks and an airplane. I guess I should be pleased that she is rejecting gender stereotypes. Anyways, she haphazardly stuck them up in a big bunch in a corner of her room and it doesn't look great. I am dying to go in and peel them off and re-stick them the way I want them. We'll see if I can resist...

I'm editing this to say I gave in and rearranged the stickers...just a tad. They look much better now. If Big A notices, which I doubt she will, I'm going to blame it on Maria, who comes every Wednesday to clean our house. I know, I am a terrible, terrible mother!

F1: I did my usual treadmill workout this morning but I'm pretty exhausted. Adam, my sweet husband, caught a cold, probably from one of our runny-nosed girls, and kept both himself and me awake all night. I have hit a wall in terms of improving my cardio fitness and strength, because of how rarely I seem to get enough sleep these days. I'm way above where I was right after Little A was born, but not even close to where I was before I got pregnant with her. It was a tough pregnancy - I was very tired and had sciatica, so although I worked out almost every day, the workouts got progressively lower in intensity until I was basically just waddling on the treadmill at about 3mph, with no incline for the last few weeks. Then, because it was another c-section delivery, I had to take 6 weeks off from working out entirely. My biggest frustration is my inability to increase the number of chin ups I can do (3 at a time). I'm pretty strong for my size, but just seem to suck at this. Again, more sleep would help.

A little fitness tip for all you busy parents looking to get stronger is: DO PUSH-PULL SUPERSETS!!! This means alternating one set working one muscle group (i.e. triceps) with a set from the opposing muscle group (i.e. biceps). This allows you to cut out rest time because the muscle you just worked is automatically resting while you are working the opposing muscle group. It is the fastest way to workout and very efficient as you are keeping your heart rate up by constantly working and moving from one exercise to another very quickly. I used to do split sets 5-6 days a week before I had kids (in the days when I spent 2+ hours at the gym every day) and would do negatives, pyramids, compounds, etc., but I just don't have time for any of that anymore. Now it's 2 strength training workouts at home each week, about 20 minutes long, plus my 40 minute workout at the gym before my spinning class on Sundays.

F2: It's cold and snowy here today so I'm making one of my favorite comfort food dishes to warm us up: Caribbean style curried chicken and cabbage. Personally, I think cabbage is an amazing superfood. Not only is it a potent anti-carcinogenic, but it is unbelievably cheap and versatile. One head of cabbage is usually less than $2 (sometimes less than $1!) and seems to double in volume once you chop it or shred it up. Another way to save a buck in the kitchen is to switch from chicken breasts to thighs or ground chicken or turkey. Thighs and ground poultry have more fat and cals then breasts, but they also have more iron, lots more flavour, and are more difficult to dry out. In any case, feel free to use breasts in any of my recipes if you prefer them. For a vegetarian option, replace meat with black eyed peas. I've made it that way before and it's good too.

Caribbean Chicken and Cabbage Curry

1 yellow onion, diced
2 tbls fresh ginger, minced or diced
2-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 heaping tbls good quality curry powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Scotchbonnet Caribbean style hot sauce (or any hot sauce, or omit if you don't like heat)
1 lb ground chicken (or turkey, or boneless/skinless thighs or breasts)
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 head green cabbage, finely chopped

Sautee onion, ginger garlic in vinegar, until onion is softened. Add spices and hot sauce, if using, and cook another minute or two. Add chicken and stir with spices until almost cooked through. Add coconut milk and continue cooking until chicken is fully cooked. Add cabbage and simmer 15-20 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Monday

Monday, February 8, 2010

P1: I am currently about halfway through my first course - Biological Developmental and Scientific Basis of Behaviour - of the MACP (Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology). It's an online program, which is a new experience for me. It took some getting used to at first, but now I am really enjoying it. The program is 20 months of course work plus a minimum of 4 month practicum at the end. My challenge right now is finding some volunteer work to give me some counselling experience before my practicum, as well as some paid work, to start in the spring when my mat leave with Little A ends. It's more difficult to find volunteer work than I had hoped! Fortunately, I have a meeting with someone from an organization called "Circle of Care" tomorrow, to discuss starting to work for them as a "Phone Pal". This involves calling isolated seniors at home and giving them an opportunity to talk to someone. I figure this is a good first step. On Friday, I have a phone meeting set up with my ob/gyn to discuss working with her to counsel women at Mount Sinai who have experienced pregnancy loss (she is a high risk pregnancy specialist). I am very excited about this, but realize that it might not be possible to start this position right away, or even to arrange my practicum there, as the hospital has many restrictions on who is qualified to work with patients, even on a volunteer basis. Fingers crossed as this is exactly the area of counselling I want to be in!! Finding part-time work for the spring isn't looking very hopeful either. When you have a Phd, you are overqualified for everything while being qualified for nothing. I think my best option is to pick up more work in the fitness industry. Before the kids, I was teaching fitness classes and/or training pretty much every day. Now I only teach one spinning class a week, on Sunday mornings. We'll see if I can get some more teaching and training opportunities...

P2: Today was one of those mornings when Big A's behaviour is so abismal, that I wonder where I have gone wrong as a parent. I managed to get her dressed and sitting with a bowl of cereal in front of Treehouse before Little A woke up. But when I sat down beside her on the couch to breastfeed little A, she started kicking us both, saying we were making her uncomfortable and she refused to stop kicking us or move to the other end of the couch where there was plenty of space. She also rudely ordered me around all morning, for example, yelling "Hungry, hungry" at me when she was finished her cereal and wanted more food and refusing to ask me for more food in a polite way. Fortunately, Little A had a great morning. She was happy and ate a good breakfast. She is a super picky eater, so any time we have a good meal I am relieved. She ate half a piece of spelt bread with almond butter, some blueberries, some banana and part of one of my sneaky muffins I made her (chock full of pureed fruit and vegetables she refuses to eat). And she didn't throw anything on the floor or mush it into her hair!

F1: Last night's dinner turned out great: Whole wheat fusilli with a spicy tomato sauce and hot turkey sausage, rapini, portobello mushrooms and red onion. Tonight's dinner: spicy Moroccan chickpea wraps (chickpeas, onion and zucchini in a spicy tomato sauce with garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne, wrapped in whole wheat tortillas).

F2: Mondays are physically tough: I'm sore from my Sunday gym workout, involving 40 minutes of weight training and my spinning class, I do my usual cardio workout before the girls get up (55 mins of hill walking/lateral training intervals on our treadmill) and I have mom and baby aquafit with Little A. The aquafit isn't very taxing, but it's the getting myself and Little A changed before and after the class that is exhausting and stressful. Nevertheless, I always feel better after being in the water. It's a warm, saltwater pool and it seems to be just what my muscles need. I get to see my sister-in-law and her baby, who is the same age as Little A, and do the class with us, so that's nice too!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Two Ps and Two Fs This Blog Will Cover

Aside from my Professional future and Parenting experiences, I will also share information about Food and Fitness, two things very close to my heart.

I love cooking and like to think that I'm a very ecclectic chef. I rarely ever use recipes and, if I do say so myself, I come up with some pretty creative ideas in the kitchen. I consider myself a foodie, of sorts, but in an unconventional way. I'm not a big fan of French cooking - small portions of , staid, unhealthy food in not so appealing to me. I prefer spicy, exotic cuisines like Thai, Indian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Caribbean. And I always try to put a healthy twist on everything. Oh and I love Italian food too, but my take on it...i.e. NO WHITE FLOUR. White flour is a pet peeve of mine so if it's going to be pizza and pasta, it's going to be whole grain in our house.

Fitness has been a big part of my life since I was 14 years old and started doing aerobics regularly. By 18 I had become a certified fitness instructor and I've been teaching group fitness and personal training ever since. I've exercised almost every day of my life for the past 20-odd years. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge with others.

Okay, so that's it. My journey for professional self-fulfillment, parenting pains, recipes and fitness tips. That's what you'll find here. That's all folks!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Parenting is the hardest job!

While the purpose of this blog is to document my attempt to reinvent my career, I am also going to cover a lot of parenting issues, seeing as that is really my primary job right now. We have one daughter turning four in May (Big A) and one turning one in April (Little A). I feel very fortunate to have two, beautiful, healthy girls, and ones that absolutely adore each other (at least for the time being). But I'll be honest...and I know I may upset people by saying this, I HATE BABIES! While I found that first year with Big A to be challenging...this time around, I have been utterly miserable. Granted, we had a lot more support from family with Big A, and Little A has thrown a lot of curve balls at us, that Big A did not. Big A ate and slept well at night, period. Our only real challenges with her was that she wasn't a great napper until we moved her down to one nap at 16 months, and she was high maintenance - she would not entertain herself for a second, you had to do the entertaining.

Little A is the opposite. Great napper and great at entertaining herself. But she has, nevertheless, made the past 9 months super challenging. First, she was a terrible sleeper at night,waking so often I developed severe anxiety and my former problems with insomnia returned with a vengeance to the point where even if she was sleeping, I was barely getting 3 hours a night for a few months. Little A also went through a phase where she would only breast feed at home, not in public, making it difficult for me to leave the house. Oh, and did I mention she will not, even now at 9 months old, take a bottle or a sippy cup or anything except the boob. They say babies won't starve themselves, but I assure you this one will. Starting Little A on solids was no picnic either. She hated eating and would only take banana for a few weeks. Then she got a bit better and I was able to feed her a variety of fruit and veggie purees for a while until she decided that she would only feed herself. Nothing off a spoon, and don't even think of bringing your fingers near her mouth. That just makes her mad. So now we are restricted to feeding her finger foods, which wouldn't be so bad is she wasn't so picky. Currently she eats fruit, spelt bread with almond butter, cheese (not melted though!) and puffed corn. Her doctor wanted us to get her eating more solids as her weight gain has slowed, but she won't even TRY new foods. She screams and throws them on the floor. I've resorted to buying organic food bars (Rebars, made from organic fruit and veggies, and organicfoodbar, made from almond butter, fruit and greens) in order to try and balance out her diet. Little A also screams and cries if anyone except my husband and I hold her. If I even leave the room for a second, she is prone to massive meltdowns. As you can imagine, we have not been out on a date or out virtually anywhere since she was born.

Okay, so this is all normal baby stuff, you say, right? Absolutely. But I hate it. I wanted kids so having babies is a necessary evil and I know I just have to get through it, but I don't have to like it. As difficult as she can be, spending time with Big A is so much more enjoyable. We can talk and have interesting conversations, she can take walks with me, we bake muffins, go shopping. It's a pleasure! After 15-30 minutes in the stroller, Little A is kvetching, I have to take her with me to the bathroom when I pee, I often have to hold her while I'm running around the house trying to do 15 different things at once, because she refuses to be put down anywhere. Is she cute? Unbelievably so. But that doesn't make any of this more enjoyable. And I guess I'm finding it harder this time around because it's all happening while I'm trying to take care of things for Big A. So I find myself wishing away Little A's first year. And no, I don't feel guilty about it. I fantasize about all the fun we'll have once she's older. And I know we'll have lots of fun. I'm just not having fun right now.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'm 35 and what am I? Besides a mom...

Well, I've started this blog because I feel like I'm at quite a crossroads in my life, and while this feels somewhat narcissistic, my husband thought it would be therapeutic for me. I'm 35, and I'm exactly where I'd hoped to be personally (wonderful, loving husband, 2 adorable daughters, great friends and family and a cosy house) and very far from where I'd hoped to be professionally, at this age.

I guess that's not so unusual these days, but it feels pretty pathetic seeing as I already have a BA, MA, and PhD under my belt, and after still accomplishing nothing, career-wise, I have returned to school yet again - this time, to pursue a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology, so I can eventually begin a psychotherapy practice. My previous jobs have all been in research. Most recently, I was associate vice president of a market research company, leading the health research practice. Sounds impressive, but really was just a nothing, middle-management position.

What's even more pathetic is that I worked for this company after my MA (sociology)and was so miserable, made the decision to return for my PhD to try and escape the industry and open up other options. But after I completed my PhD, I worked at the university for a year and then left to have my first child. While on mat leave, I discovered that I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do and there was not really a high demand for PhDs in Exercise Science. I needed an income to pay for child care (one thing I DID know was that I didn't want to be a stay-at-home mom...that job is way too hard!) and employment so I could get another maternity leave with my next (and last) child. So I went back to the same company in the same industry I was in BEFORE I did my PhD. Hmm, all that time and effort spent on a doctoral degree...for what reason?? Once again, I found myself utterly miserable and realized I had to make a change because there was no way I could spend the next 30 years of my life hating my professional life.

I had originally wanted to go into counselling, but got sidetracked by life. After having a miscarriage before my first daughter was conceived, I became aware of the lack of resources and support for women in the community who experience this traumatic event. This inspired my new career aspirations. I want to counsel women who experience miscarriage loss and/or infertility. This blog will document my journey to, finally, for the first time in my life, pursue a career that I am passionate about while trying to survive parenthood of two young children. I am sure there are a lot of you out there who can relate...