Thursday, June 30, 2011

Feel the Rush

Do you feel like you are ALWAYS in a rush?

I do. Constantly!

Partly this is because life is busy. Particularly if you have young children.

But I admit most of this is simply due to my personality. I am terrified of being late and terrified of not fulfilling all of my obligations and obsessed with being productive and efficient.

While these traits make me reliable, responsible, and successful in many respects, this also means that I have difficulty relaxing, am constantly multi-tasking, needlessly stress myself out and struggle to live in the moment.

I believe this is why Big A and I clash so often. She is emotionally needy and desperate for attention, while at the same time a dawdler, and a child who has difficulty with transitions, making decisions quickly and often changes her mind at the last minute.

I have said publicly on this blog many times that I need to slow down and spend more time giving her my undivided attention because...well, that is what she needs.

But I think I have only made very minimal improvements in this regard.

Lately I have noticed just how much my constant rushing negatively affects my life. When I am rushing the girls to daycare, rushing to work, rushing home from work, etc., etc., I am miserable. It is difficult to enjoy ANYTHING when you feel like every second wasted may lead to disaster. And the truth is, that is not reality.

Yesterday I decided to take my time riding my bike home from the fertility clinic and it was a completely different experience. Instead of cursing every red light and driver who cut me off, I focused on enjoying the beautiful gentle breeze that made it such a lovely day to be riding.

Today I finally got back to yoga at the JCC and realized that one of the reasons I really need yoga in my life is that it is one of the few times I will stop and be in the moment. I hope I can continue to fit it into my schedule at least once a week, but I am also vowing to stop rushing whenever possible and try to enjoy the moment like I did yesterday. After all, living in the present is what it's all about, right?

I think this will benefit Big A and myself.

Okay, off I go to pick up the girls. No rush though, I know I'll get there on time!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

JK Graduation

Today is Big A's last day of JK. They had a little graduation ceremony yesterday which Adam and I did not attend because we were both working and the letter we got from the school said it was SK graduation. Yes, so in other words we are crappy parents. Apparently ALL the other JK parents showed up.


Big A got a great report card and apparently her teacher announced at the ceremony that she is the most organized student in the class and should have a future managing other people's businesses. Okay, I was kind of hoping she'd become a doctor or Olympic athlete, or successful health food chef but I'll take that.

Yet when we asked her what her favorite thing was about the day, she replied, "When we got cake and rice krispie squares and juice.

This is what I'm talking about when I say I worry about this girl folks. I'm envisioning competitive eating in her future instead of med school. She could probably already eat 4-5 hot dogs in a sitting if we let her.

While her reading and writing has certainly improved over the course of the year, she still has a ways to go. Adam has decided we need to meet with her teacher to get some tips about how we can help her more at home. We already read to her daily and she did give some ideas on the report card, but Adam wants more details.

Little A is speaking a bit more clearly (sometimes!) but we've hit a roadblock with her potty training. Even her daycare, that is big on encouraging kids in this area, admitted that she shows NO interest.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my Little Pig Pen is not overly concerned about rolling around in her own filth. She still cries almost every night when we give her a bath. Unless, of course, we let her drink the bath water.

Little A still has a knack for creating unfathomable messes. Last week I put on the pretty white blouse my mother-in-law got her UNDER an overall dress, reasoning that she could not possibl dirty it that way. HA! When I pulled off her dress that evening I was dismayed to find bright orange stains all down the front of the white blouse!

So what do I see in Big A's future? Garbage collector? Mud wrestler? Gastroenterologist? Hard to say...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Workout Your Core

Because of all the rehab exercises I do that my physiotherapist gives me, and because I am generally so busy now due to my counselling placements, I haven't done any pilates, core training or yoga in a long time. And it's definitely taking a toll. I have had some regression with my leg pain and my calves and hamstrings constantly feel tight.

I am really hoping to get to the JCC on Thursday for a yoga class. Although at the time I wasn't sure it was helping my leg and I was doing it primarily for stress management and enjoyment, looking back I have realized that my leg was actually feeling better when I was doing it twice a week.

Last week I was desperately craving yoga but couldn't find the time for a class so I looked through my stack of fitness DVDs for SOMETHING to do. I wasn't in the mood for anything too lengthy and when I found my copy of Jackie Warner's Crunch Free Abs, I knew I had found the perfect workout to squeeze in.

Warner is the Hollywood celebrity trainer who was featured on the reality show Workout. I'm not much into reality shows, but I admit that when Little A was an infant and I was stuck home alone with her on Saturday mornings while Adam was at the gym and Big A was at gymnastics class with my in-laws, I would watch it while nursing her. After all, I've worked as a fitness instructor and trainer for 18 years so I was somewhat curious to see how the celebrity trainers do it.

Like most other reality shows, this one was pretty stupid, but I do like this DVD.

It is divided into two 15 minute segments, the first one done standing and the second one done on the floor. You have the option of using small hand weights for some of the exercises.

Unlike Jillian Michaels core training DVD, this one does not contain many high intensity training intervals (HITT), so if you are looking for a straightforward, challenging core workout WIHTOUT any cardio component, this is a good one. You can do it in the middle of the day and not worry about getting too sweaty.

Interestingly, I actually find the floor segment much harder than the standing one, primarily because Warner has you do each exercise, even intense ones for a long time.

My only major complaint, is that like Michaels, Warner is a personal trainer, not a fitness instructor, so her cueing is a bit off meaning that you don't do EXACTLY the same number of reps on both sides. That tends to drive some people crazy.

Overall, I highly recommend this DVD if you are look for a challenging and efficient core workout you can fit into your busy schedule.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Homemade Bubbles

If your kids are like mine, they love blowing bubbles.

If they are really like mine, then they also tend to spill more bubble solution than they actually blow...on purpose. I don't know why but they both really enjoy dumping the stuff all over the place.

Bubble stuff isn't expensive, but you can make it for even cheaper at home, and it is super easy.

1.5 parts dish soap (Joy or Dawn)
8 parts water
.25 parts glycerin (available at pharmacies)

By the way, for the record I would like to say that I really am not overly restrictive about what my kids eat. I may seethe over it, but I generally allow them have whatever is offered to them...and sometimes I even offer them crap myself.

Yesterday is a perfect example. We went to Yorkdale Mall to find bedding for Little A's big-girl bed that we just ordered. We promised the girls we would buy them dinner there, so I got them smoothies from Jamba Juice, and a hot dog (sans white flour bun!) and fries from New York Fries.

Everything in moderation, right? Well except for tobacco, crack-cocaine and running with scissors...

Anyhoo, enjoy some good clean fun blowing bubbles.

Big A's Carrot Pineapple Mini Muffins

Big A had a massive melt down after I got back from New York. It was quickly apparent that she was feeling extremely jealous of Little A and that she really needed some alone time with me.

Fortunately, this weekend our Sunday routine changed as the new session for swimming began for the girls. It now works out that Big A and I have about an hour together while Adam is taking Little A to the JCC.

I asked Big A how she would like to spend this time and she immediately decided she wanted to bake carrot muffins. Hey, who am I to argue if my sweet toothed sweetie requests homemade baked goods with veggies in them??

Fortunately, she loves eating these as much as she liked making them. Whether or not they compare with "Bear Paws" is another story...

1 lb organic carrots, steamed and pulsed in food processor
1 19oz can crushed pineapple
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar, Splenda or stevia (I used a stevia that measures one-to-one with sugar)

2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 cup natural bran
1/2 cup flax seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add dry to wet and stir, just until mixed. Spoon into greased mini muffin tins. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes*. Cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack. Makes 48 mini muffins.

*If using regular sized muffin tins, bake for about 20 mins. Note that baking times are always approximate and you should always use the toothpick test just to be sure.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strawberries & Cream Muffins

These may sound and taste decadent, but they are packed with fibre and nutrients and very low in fat.

Don't let the zucchini scare you. You can't taste it but it boosts the nutrition and decreases the calorie content.

2 zucchini, grated
1 lb organic strawberries, finely diced or pulsed in food processor
3/4 cup non-fat strawberry (or vanilla) yogurt
4 egg whites (or 2 whole large eggs)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Splenda or sugar

2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 cup organic oat bran
1/2 cup organic ground flax seeds
2 tbls chia seeds* (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

In large bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (zucchini to Splenda/sugar). Stir together dry ingredients in a medium bowl and add to wet. Stir just until combined. Fill greased muffin cups right to the top and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 jumbo muffins.

*After my initial awful experience using ground chia seeds in my oatmeal, I have fallen in love with using the whole seeds. I now rotate using them with ground flax and tiger nuts in my morning power porridge. I also love using them for baking. You don't really notice them in something like a muffin, but they provide incredible nutrition.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No Sharing Please

Once again I am stressing about what my kids are eating. Believe it or not though, I have seriously loosened up A LOT about what they consume.

I think about the diet Big A ate for the first year of her life and I laugh comparing it to what she and Little A eat now.

While you might think I am too restrictive with them at home, I really am not. In fact, I bet there are many parents out there who would think I could be doing a much better job of feeding my kids.

The number one concern I have is that they get too much sugar. Sure I don't buy candy or oreos or chocolate bars for them. But they do get a lot of that crap at school, daycare, birthday parties and friend's houses. They also get lots of treats at their grandparents' and great-grandparents house, including store bought cakes, cupcakes, ice cream, etc. And I do buy a lot of what I consider to be "healthier junk food". Things like organic, whole grain cookies (they are still cookies!), whole grain sweetened breakfast cereals, fruit-sweetened gummies, and dried fruit snacks, all of which are high in sugar, whether it's "fruit" sugar or not.

Of course, the most obvious question is, why do I buy these things then? The answer is: I am a lazy parent. Nutrition experts constantly warn about using food as a bribe or reward, that it works in the short-term, but can lead to long-term problems. I know this. But at my weakest moments when I am feeling tired and overwhelmed, I JUST DON'T CARE. If it takes a few handfuls of fruit gummies to quiet down two screaming girls in the car, so be it.

I do still attempt to encourage healthy eating. For example, I have to pack a snack for Big A for JK every day. While other parents pack their kids processed crackers, cookies and other stuff, I only allow fresh fruit, or occasionally cheese strings and organic raisins.

Unfortunately, over the past few months I have discovered that Big A's generous friends have all been sharing their snacks with her, which explains why the fruit ends up frequently coming home uneaten.

The other day, one of her best friend's mothers mentioned to me that her daughter was often coming home hungry because her friends, including Big A, were sharing all her snacks. In addition, Big A asked her to suggest to me that that I buy her some of these yummy treats, which she did. I tried to explain that Big A is a bit of a junk-food junkie, and that the only way I can get her to snack on fruit, is if it is her only option.

Nevertheless, I realize the futility of my school snack rule if she isn't even EATING the fruit. Actually, she does often eat it on the way home from school, if she is hungry, and interestingly, if Little A or one of her friends wants to eat some fruit I have packed, she suddenly will have to have some too.

Finally, after weeks of begging me to buy her some "Bear Paws", I gave in. It made me cringe to purchase these refined flour and sugar laden pieces of crap that all her friends bring to school daily. Grr! Is it possible that other kids' parents can be a bad influence?

Adam and I discussed letting her bring them once a week or something like that, but to my surprise, she decided she wanted them as her snack just once: next Wednesday, which is her last day of school.

Okay, that's a reasonable deal!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sloppy Janes

I believe this recipe I created for vegetarian Sloppy Joes will satisfy even the carnivores in your life.

Don't be scared of tempeh, it is easy to use and very healthy. Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that is less processed than tofu and other soy products, easier to digest, and higher in protein and nutrients.

1 tsp olive oil
1 cooking onion, grated or finely chopped in food processor
350g organic tempeh (grated or cut into cubes and pulsed in food processor until it resembles crumbled ground meat)
2 heaping tbls taco seasoning or chili powder
3-4 cloves garlic
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 cups ground or pureed tomatoes
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

8 whole grain buns

Pour oil into large skillet or fry pan over med heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add grated or crumbled tempeh, spices, garlic and beans and cook for a few more minutes. Pour in vinegar, tomato puree and seasonings and turn heat down to low. Simmer until you are ready to eat. If it becomes too thick, add a bit of water. Spoon mixture over whole grain buns. Serve with a green salad. Makes 8 heaping Sloppy Janes. Leftovers freeze well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Streets of New York

I'm back from NYC, possibly the greatest place in the world.

I joked that if there were any place where you could find "banana soft-serve" made just from bananas it would be NYC...we'll I found it! I didn't get any because I had just bought a sandwich and was walking back to my grandmother's nursing home on the upper east side, but I did walk in just to make sure it was what I thought it was...and it was! It's called "The Soft Serve Fruit Co" and it's frozen fruit mixed with water and sugar into soft-serve. I almost asked if you could get it without the added sugar (so unnecessary), but I was in a rush to get back to my grandma. What a wicked city!

Of course NY is also a place where you can see all kinds of crazy. I've seen people walking ferrets and cats on leashes, I've seen a man barking like a dog in a subway car, I've seen people dressed up in all sorts of nutty get-ups. On this trip, however, I was the one who probably looked a little half-cocked.

On Wednesday I walked all the way from my grandma's nursing home, around 72nd and 1st Ave to her apartment at 39th and 2nd Ave wearing broken sunglasses with one lense missing. I was not aware of this, I might add. I did notice something was up, but I was feeling so emotional and tired, that I thought I just needed to rest. I kept taking off my sunglasses, thinking I was seeing spots. Somehow that whole time I didn't notice I was missing a lense until I got back to the apartment. What a dork I am!

Yesterday was a difficult day. After my cousin Martin and I spent some time with my grandma she needed a nap (she sleeps a lot now!). Martin headed off because he needed to catch a bus back to Albany and I went out for a walk and to pick up some lunch. I got back just as grandma had woken up, so I sat down to eat and chat with her. After about an hour, she stared hurrying me out the door. Not in a hostile way, but in a - as my uncle put it - "Go out and live your life" way. I was so emotional, I kept hugging her and telling her I loved her and very reluctantly left.

This was honestly the hardest goodbye I have ever had. It felt so final. Will I ever see her again? If I do, will she still know who I am? I became overwhelmed and when I stepped out onto the street I wept, like really sobbed. I must have looked nuts, as I cried for block after block, but after a while I really didn't care, I was just very sad.

I am obviously not the first one to make this observation, but THERE IS NO DIGNITY IN GETTING OLD. My grandmother is still beautiful and loving and wonderful, but she alternates between periods of being relatively lucid and incredibly confused.

She suddenly burst into tears realizing her parents are dead and talking about how wonderful they were. She refuses to accept that she is never going back to her apartment and said she hopes to visit all of us in Canada again in the fall.

Grandma remembers Adam and Big A, but not Little A. She sometimes talked as if my grandpa was still alive.

Grandma has also started telling some very tall tales, which is actually quite amusing. They are so outrageous, we were marvelling over her creativity. My uncle suspects it may be a side effect of one of her medications.

Most of the other residents of my grandma's nursing home were in much worse condition. Wheelchair bound, unable to care for themselves in any capacity, it was heartbreaking to see. My grandmother's roommate did not get out of her bed the entire week and was asleep most of the time. Apparently she has been there for years. I barely saw her even talk or eat anything either.

It's a stark reminder that we should try to appreciate the important things - like our family, health and freedom, and try to let the other stuff go (the size of our butts, material things, etc.). I doubt any of these women were thinking, "I wish I had bought more pairs of $300 shoes."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Frozen Treats

I am off to New York today and I'm very excited. New York is my favorite place on the planet. Unfortunately, this is not quite a 'vacation' as the primary reason for going is to see my grandma Ruth, who is in the hospital. Nevertheless, it will be fun to visit my favorite city and see my grandma, uncle and cousins.

I am also excited that I am flying Porter Airlines for the first time ever. It is supposed to be much more civilized that flying Air Canada!!

Unlike our trip to San Francisco, I don't plan on this being a food frenzy trip. For one, I did enough indulging for a lifetime in San Fran, but also I am trying to save my pennies. Since I will be staying at my grandma's apartment (which will be weird since she won't be there), I plan to grocery shop and cook some healthy meals. This is always a blast when I go to the U.S. because I get to try all the many products not available in Canada.

But I don't have much confidence that I can resist a few visits to Tasti-Delite while I'm there...Oh well, we'll see how strong my will-power is!

Speaking of frozen desserts, I found out something miraculous last week: my girls, both of whom ADORE all manner of frozen treats, can be tricked into thinking that frozen bananas are ice cream!

The health food blogger world has been abuzz for a long time now about "banana soft-serve", which is just frozen bananas pureed in the blender until they are the consistency of soft-serve. I tried it out on the girls last week (but called it banana ice cream) and they LOVE IT. I've had to make it for them 4 times since then. Definitely healthier than all the sugar and fat-laden alternatives! Hey, I am going to New York, where you can find just about anything...maybe I'll find a purveyer on the streets of Manhattan selling "banana soft-serve"!

Monday, June 13, 2011

One Long Weekend

No it wasn't really a long weekend, but it did sorta feel that way.

Friday I was busy counselling, and my in-laws cancelled dinner plans with Adam and the girls because my niece, who was staying with them, came down with the stomach flu. This meant that when I got home around 6:30pm, I had to try and journal all the details of my sessions for the day and log my hours (requirements for school) with the two of them running around like maniacs.

Saturday I was by myself with the girls for most of the day because Adam was at the gym all morning and then at UofT for a party to honour his former PhD supervisor. The morning was great, I took the girls to the Wychwood barns farmer's market, which Big A loves, and they sampled all sorts of treats: soy yogurt, spelt cookies, fresh apples of different varieties and raw/vegan brownies and cookies. Then I let them loose in the playground. Big A had a blast getting into her bathing suit and running around in the water park while Little A had me push her on the swing and see-saw with her.

The afternoon, however, was not much fun. We had had plans to go to my in-laws, but because my niece was still sick, that got blown out of the water. I couldn't find anything interesting to do with the girls. There were no appropriate movies playing and Little A despises going shopping, so heading to the mall was out.

I finally settled on the vegan/raw food festival in our neighbourhood. I figured they had such a great time in the morning sampling similar treats at the market, they might like this too.

But just as Adam headed off for his party, Little A woke up from her nap in a rotten mood and not willing to go anywhere. I gave in and let them watch a DVD and eat a snack. Then to my surprise, they were willing to venture out, so off we went.

What a mistake! The festival was inside, in an non air-conditioned space. It was super crowded and noisy. The girls didn't like any of the free samples they were offered, except for some raw semi-sweet chocolate, and Big A was really whiny. I finally took them to the snack bar where they each started yelling they wanted a baked apple (since when are baked apples raw?). I relented, but was appalled that 2 baked apples cost me $10 and peeved when each of them took one bite and decided they didn't like them. We headed back to the car. Before we got there, Big A suddenly declared she had to pee, like ASAP! Something she could have decided 5 minutes prior when we were still at the festival! I had to let her drop her pants right there and pee in the corner of a school yard. When Little A saw this, she wanted to get in on the action too. I had to battle with her to keep her diaper on.

Once we got back to the car, the girls got into each other's car seats and wouldn't budge. I didn't feel like getting physical with them so I tried to wait it out by patiently standing on the sidewalk and hoping they would get tired of this game. Unfortunately, it delighted them and it was me that gave in. I finally had to threated to remove movie and popcorn privileges for the evening if they didn't each return to their proper car seat.

Yesterday was a much more pleasant day. In the morning I went to the JCC to teach my spinning class while Adam shuttled the girls to and from swimming and soccer lessons. While Little A DIDN'T nap, my friend Ray came over to give Big A a yo yo lesson. When we finally gave up on Little A taking a nap, we headed down to the Bloor Street Festival, which we go to every year. Big A got her face painted, the girls got lollipops and balloons, and Little A, of course, managed to get filthy. At 5:30pm when Adam was heading to his book club meeting, I bought the girls frozen yogurt and then jumped on the subway with them to get home. Public transport is a huge treat for them. They entertained the other passengers on the subway and bus with their conversations and gleefulness. Unfortunately, Little A was so sticky and dirty by this point that I felt like taping a disclaimer to her shirt saying, "Please excuse the appearance of this child, but I assure you she is well taken care of."

The weekend ended with Adam and I watching The Social Network (great film!) and me heading off to my first MRI. As someone who gets sleepy by 9pm, driving to the hospital at 11pm was a challenge! Not even the energy drink I gulped at 9:15pm helped much. But I made it there and back in one piece. My other MRI has been re-scheduled for July 20, so it looks like I still have a few more weeks to wait until there is any chance of getting some answers about my leg pain.

Tomorrow I head off to NYC to see my grandma. Although I love New York, this trip is going to be bittersweet.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pizza Roll-Ups

Easy, really yummy, and easily customizable for the little ones. You can change up the veggies and fillings any way you want. Some options are: mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pineapple, olives, different cheeses, meats, etc.

6-8 10-inch 100% whole grain wraps/tortillas

1.5 cups low-fat mozzerella, grated
1 package veggie pepperoni, cooked and crumbled turkey sausage or, bbq or grilled chicken, cut into chunks (optional)

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel seeds
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
4 sweet red/yellow/orange bell peppers, cut into strips
1 bunch rapini, or other greens, chopped
1 400-500ml jar bruchetta topping (I used tomato olive)
1 can tomato paste
Salt and pepper, to taste

In large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, garlic and spices in oil for a few minutes. Add peppers and continue cooking until onion and peppers have softened. Add greens, bruchetta topping, tomato paste and salt and pepper. Turn heat down to low and simmer until greens have wilted and everything has heated through. Add in veggie pepperoni, cooked meat, etc. at this point.

Meanwhile, sprinkle wraps with cheese. One at a time, place each on a non-stick baking sheet and fill with veggie mixture. Roll up and hold in place with a toothpick, if necessary. Place in oven at 400F until cheese has melted.

Makes 6-8 roll-ups (depending on number and amount of fillings you use).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Little Einsteins

Do you think your kids are the smartest kids in the world? Well I have news for you: they are. And mine are too, of course.

My dad once told me that one of the most rewarding things about watching your kids grow up is how they learn and take in the world and how amazing it is. And he is totally right.

I have also realized that when kids hit most developmental milestones often has little to do with their intelligence or potential.

Big A was definitely not an early talker, but when she did start talking, she developed an incredible vocabulary very quickly and since then has been extremely articulate for her age. Yet now that she is in Junior kindergarten and learning to read, she is making taking her time to learn to read. Adam, has pointed out, however, that this is partly because she is extremely lazy and gets frustrated/bored/distracted quickly.

While Big A did walk and toilet train early, Little A walked a few months later and still shows little interest in getting out of diapers. Although she demonstrated astounding comprehension at a young age, she began talking even later than Big A and is still largely unintelligible, so much so that we have her on the waiting list for speech therapy.

Am I worried about her? Not really. Every other sign points to her being extremely smart and developing well. She is extremely social, understands EVERYTHING, can follow complex directions, and has a large vocabulary...we just can't understand her. She is also now MORE advanced than Big A was at this age in terms of both her gross and fine motor skills.

After chatting with my friend Megan, a speech pathologist, I think it problem is likely some sort of speech impediment. When I described how she talks, Megan said it may be she can't pronounce hard "c"s or "k" sounds, which is very common.

Regardless, both my girls delight me on a daily basis with their learning and thinking.

Just yesterday Big A asked me "Mommy, how does disease happen?" I tried to explain to her that some diseases are caused by genetics (because someone's mommy or daddy has a disease or are a carrier of a disease), some are caused by environmental factors, lifestyle factors, some have unknown causes and sometimes people are even born with diseases. So we talked about how even children can be very sick and even die (I don't sugar-coat things). "I know something else, Mommy," she said, "Sometimes when a woman is pregnant, the baby dies when it is in her tummy!" I told her this was true and that, in fact, this had happened to me before she was in my tummy.

She was fascinated and asked if it was a boy or girl and what the baby's name was (I tried to explain that the baby was so small that we didn't know and had not chosen a name. She thought for a few moments and then asked, "So did you and daddy always want 2 babies, like was it going to be that baby and me?"

I was shocked and sort of amused. Instantly her focus was on whether she had always been a planned and wanted child. As the older sibling, who is often very jealous of her younger sister, I think it gave her comfort to think that even if that first baby had lived, she would still be alive...while perhaps her sister would not be! Although this might not be the nicest way to look at it, I can certainly understand her desire to look at it this way and I actually think it shows a fairly mature level of analytical skills. I decided there is no point explaining to her that because she was conceived just 2 months after my miscarriage, that she would not exist had that pregnancy been viable.

Believe it or not, Little A already shows signs of sophisticated reasoning...I am certain, of course, that she, like her big sister, is a genious. We just have to get her to speak English in a way that we can understand!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Oodles of (Shiratake) Noodles

I am obsessed with Shiritake noodles these days. Not only are they convenient (no cooking required!), but unlike rice noodles, they do not get gummy or sticky, and unlike most other types of noodles they are CALORIE AND CARB FREE. They are also made from all natural yam starch and are gluten-free. I guess that's why they are often referred to as "Miracle Noodles".

The ones I like best are the ones that DO NOT contain soy. The ones that do are okay, but not my favorite. Also keep in mind that the soy noodles do contain a modest amount of calories (I think about 50 calories a bag).

They are generally best with Asian recipes, but if you are going to try them with Italian pasta style recipes, the soy ones are better suited. Just keep in mind that they do not absorb liquid like starchy noodles, so they are great for soup, but this also means that you have to either start with a thick sauce or add a thickener to your sauce, if you don't want your dish to end up soupy.

Adam likes them too so I've come up with a number of recipes lately for lunches or dinners.

Malaysian Shiritake Noodles

1 tsp peanut or canola oil
1 knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls Malaysian curry powder (or regular curry powder + 2 tsp chili powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk powder
2 tbls fish sauce
1 lb cleaned, deveined shrimp
1/2 large cabbage, chopped
1 can tomato paste
2 bunches green onions, sliced
2-1 lb bags Shiritake noodles, drained, rinsed, snipped with scissors (they come in looooooooong strands), and 'dried'*

Pour oil into large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add ginger, garlic, spices, coconut milk powder and fish sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp and cook just a few minutes until it begins to cook. Add cabbage and continue cooking until it is softened. Turn heat down and mix in tomato paste and green onions. Mix in noodles and serve.

Makes 2-3 servings

Yum-mous Hummous Noodles

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tbls tahini
2 tsp olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

1 bunch broccoli, cut into pieces
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

2-1 lb bags Shiritake noodles, drained, rinsed, snipped with scissors and dried*

Combine broccoli and tomatoes with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and roast in oven at 350F for about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for hummous in food processor and process until smooth.

When vegetables are done, remove from oven. Place noodles into hot skillet along with veggies and sauce, toss and heat through.

Serves 2-3

Shiritake Brunch Noodles
This is a favorite of mine to make after I get back from the gym on Sundays.

2 eggs, beaten

1 lb bag Shiritake noodles, drained, rinsed, snipped with scissors and dried*
1 knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbls fremented black bean paste or chili bean sauce
1 bunch broccoli, chopped and lightly steamed
1 bunch green onions, sliced
Hot crushed chili flakes, to taste

Add all ingredients into hot skillet or wok and cook until hot and fragrant. Add eggs and stir until fully cooked. Remove from heat and serve. Serves one hungry person.

*Drying shirataki noodles involves throwing them into a dry frying pan or skillet until excess moisture/liquid is removed.  You can omit this step if using in a soup.

Living a Dream

How would you describe living your dream? Are you doing what you love to do? For some this might mean being a famous movie star, a millionaire, or a pro athelte. For others it might mean owning a tiny cafe, being a stay-at-home mom, or working with disabled children. For me, it's being a psychotherapist.

I am now 5 weeks into my practicums for school. Already I feel like I have learned so much. And, fortunately, I am still absolutely certain that this is what I want to do with my life. Even without receiving pay, it feels like a privilege to me to be able to counsel people.

At the fertility clinic I am still co-counselling with S.D., but at the general therapy clinic, I already have my own clients who I see solo. Oh my!

Although I have heard people describe unimaginable losses, and horrific experiences with illness, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and watched both men and women break down sobbing, overall I have found my experiences so far encouraging and inspiring. It amazes me how resilient people can be and their infinite capacity for love and forgiveness.

Of course, after two years of living on just Adam's single income, we cannot go on like this forever. So come the fall when my practicums are completed and I get my degree, I must turn this into a financially viable career as well as as fulfilling one. But what I have learned is that, at least for me, money is not what is important for my happiness. Yes, I need to be able to live comfortably, but I would not go back to my former career, even for a million dollars.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bench Squats

I have given up using the squating cage at the JCC on Sunday mornings until I have my MRI and find out exactly what's causing my leg pain. I figure it's best to avoid squating and lunging with 140 lbs of weight on my shoulders for the time being.

But it is still important for me to strengthen my legs, and is actually part of my rehab prescribed by my physiotherapist. So I've tinkered with my workout to come up with challenging exercises I can do that won't irritate my hamstring/glutes.

This is an amazing exercise that I love (because it is effective) and hate (because it's tough). You don't need a weight bench, a chair (not on wheels please!), aerobic step or even a firm bed can work instead. I also like this because it forces you to squat with your knees behind your toes, which is important to protect your knees. I guarantee you will really feel these in your quads and glutes.

Use as much weight as you can. You can start with no weight at all and work your way up. I'm currently using 25 lb dumbells and I try to do 3-6 sets of 15 repetitions. The lower the surface you are squating to, the harder it will be.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pasta with White Beans, Sundried Tomatoes and Pesto

I never make my pestos with cheese because I am married to a cheese-hater. But if your brood likes it, I would add about 1/4-1/2 cup of parmesan to the food processor before adding the spinach and basil. I don't like mine too oily, so I add very little and it ends up pretty thick. You can add more if you want to thin it out.

5oz organic baby spinach
Large bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup walnuts (or pinenuts), toasted if desired
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil (or more)
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 lb whole grain short pasta (rotini, fusilli, etc.)
1 can white kidney beans or romano beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, julienned

Place nuts, garlic, oil, cheese (if using), salt and pepper into food processor and process until nuts are coarsely ground. Add spinach and basil, a few handfuls at a time and process until desired consistency is reached.

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain and return to pot and place back on stove over low heat. Stir in pesto, beans and tomatoes. Remove from heat and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stewed Spiced Plums

This is one of my favorite ways to use plums. To me, they taste like candy when prepared this way. Enjoy over low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, on top of pancakes, waffles, or just on their own.

6 plums, pitted and sliced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbls grated fresh ginger (optional)
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in saucepan and cook over medium/medium low heat until plums are soft. Serve warm or cold.

An Apple A Day or No Way Jose?

A few weeks ago while I was lifting weights at the JCC before my Sunday morning spin class, a member I have known there for years (50 something lawyer with two grown kids), was telling another member about the new weight loss plan he had just started. It is essentially a low-carb diet that eliminates most starchy carbs and fruit.

I listened for a few minutes and then couldn't bite my tongue any longer. "M, you know I don't approve of that!" I teased. M respectfully sees me as a trusted authority on fitness and nutrition so, with sincere interest, he asked me to explain why.

I told him there is no magic to these diets. The reason high protein, low carb diets work short-term is that protein is filling so people are rarely hungry. The problem is, excessive protein consumption can cause kidney damage over the long-term and low-carb diets leave many people depressed, tired, irritable and craving sugar. That is because carbohydrates affect seratonin levels in the brain. Personally just thinking about limiting my carbs makes me feel down. Researchers have found - likely for these reasons - that few people can stick to these diets long-term and end up regaining the weight.

The key is to find a healthy way to eat that you can maintain FOR LIFE. This means it has to be enjoyable.

Although the Atkins diet craze seems (thankfully!) to be over, other low-carb diets have cropped up in its place. Recently there was some discussion in the media about some nutrition experts who claim that fruit, because it is high in sugar, should be avoided because it may cause weight gain.

Sigh! Do you really think North Americans are facing an obesity epidemic because they are eating too much fresh fruit? Come on, let's get real folks!

Leslie Beck, nutrition expert for the Globe and Mail, did an excellent job addressing this issue in today's paper:

Of course, as she points out, fruit are a source of calories so you cannot eat UNLIMITED amounts. She also discusses the quality and quantity debate when it comes to individuals with health concerns like diabetes. But I will expand on this discussion to address the weightloss debate.

Some fruits are less satisfying than others (i.e. melon, grapes, pineapple) because it has less fibre. Personally, I avoid these because, aside from not really liking melons and grapes, they make me feel bloated and give me a quick sugar rush, followed by a crash that leaves me hungry and tired soon after. Other fruits are more satisfying because they have more fibre (apples, cherries, pears, plums, berries, oranges, etc.).

Does this mean you have to give up melon and grapes if you are trying to lose weight, even if you love them? Not at all. What you eat WITH your fruit also makes a big difference. Pairing grapes with some low-fat cheese, that adds some fat and protein to your snack will slow down the rate at which you absorb the sugar from the fruit and is more likely to keep you full until your next meal and full of energy.

Even better, try 2 plums, which contain a type of soluble fibre that is particularly good at filling you up, along with a handful of almonds. This is a healthy, low-cal snack that is guaranteed to keep you feeling satisfied and energetic.

Another good choice is fresh (high fibre!) berries with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt.

Yes fibre can cause excessive (and smelly!) flatulence, but you can take Beano and increase your water intake to counteract this. Also keep in mind, that your body takes time to adjust to any increases in fibre.

So in a nutshell, if you are trying to lose weight or struggling to maintain a healthy weight, no need to avoid fruit. Just eat it in moderation and, ideally, pair it with a protein source to slow down the rate at which the sugar is released into your bloodstream.