Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Need More Hours in the Day!

Sherma started babysitting Little A this week and it's going great. As long as she doesn't see me (I usually hide in our bedroom to do my school work), she is perfectly happy to hang out with Sherma. But I don't understand why I suddenly feel like I have LESS time. The days are just flying by and I feel like I can never get as much work done as I would like. My new course called Psychological Assessment is not as interesting, so far, as Theories of Personality was. It's very technical and methodological. This one has weekly assignments plus three additional papers. It always seems completely overwhelming at the beginning. Of course, it doesn't help that I have scheduled a million appointments for the next few weeks. Now that I have Sherma I can finally do things like go to the dentist!

Adam and I are also exhausted. Big A has woken us up repeatedly the past 2 nights. I don't know what's going on. Last night she just said she couldn't sleep and she whined and cried for about 2 hours until she finally fell asleep around 11:30pm. Adam was so frustrated, he went to go sleep in the basement for part of the night. I can't wait until my children are old enough to really articulate their true thoughts and feelings because the guessing games you have to play with babies and small children can be so stressful. I was really worried that something was really wrong and she did at one point claim her throat was sore and at another point that her ear was hurting. This morning she seemed fine though. Too bad kids aren't like cars and don't have little lights that come on to tell you what's going on: need oil, air bag malfunction, etc.

Big A has always been fascinated with medicine and doctors. Oddly, one of her favorite television shows is ER. I thought something like that would really frighten her, but actually, she is completely fascinated and it stimulates her to ask us interesting questions. Yesterday she asked us what doctors use to cut people's skin open and for what reasons they would do this. Hopefully this means she will become a famous surgeon (and will support her dear parents in our old age!).

Poor Little A had her 1 year appointment today at the pediatrician's. She had to get 2 needles and have blood taken. She is now 50th percentile for weight and 75th for length. The doctor is completely satisfied with this, so her poor eating is apparently not having a deleterious effect on her growth.

Given my lack of time I may not post again until the end of the week...hopefully by that time I'll feel more in control of my school work load!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mind & Body

One thing that has been clear in my studies so far is the interconnectedness of the body and the mind. In my first course on human development, all the research we did demonstrated how virtually everything about us, including our personalities and physical and mental health, is determined by the interaction between biology and the environment.

I am not a hypochondriac, but I have always been terrified of getting cancer. This is probably because there is a strong history of cancer in my family, but also because most cancers don't seem to be all that preventable. In other words, we have little control of whether we get them...and that is terrifying to me! Things like heart disease, assuming you don't have a strong genetic predisposition, can be avoided through lifestyle factors, so it is something I rarely worry about. We have no family history and I probably exercise more, and eat a healthier diet, than most North Americans.

Adam's big worry has always been Alzheimer's disease. His maternal grandfather had it, and his paternal grandfather has some level of mild dementia at this point. He has always found the prospect of losing his faculties to be the most frightening thing imaginable. I never really understood that before because I always felt that it would be far worse to have an intact mind but know that your body is going to give out and you are going to die soon. In that case, you are aware of all that you are about to lose. Recently, however, I finished an excellent novel called "Still Alice", by Lisa Genova, a PhD in neuroscience. It is a fictional account of a Harvard professor named Alice, who is diagnosed at age 50 with early onset Alzheimer's. I have to say, I now understand why Adam is so concerned with developing dementia. Developing any chronic disease is a terrible fate, whether its your mind or your body that breaks down, it doesn't matter. Ultimately, if you lose one, you will eventually lose the other too.

My research on Alzheimer's for school uncovered some interesting things. First, only about 5% of cases are due to familial inhereted genes. But like breast cancer, there are genes that dramatically increase your chances of getting the disease. In addition, years of education is inversely related to your risk of developing Alzheimer's. In that case, neither Adam nor I really need to worry! Few people of spent as much time in school as the two of us! Coffee drinking (not merely caffeine consumption though) is also strongly related to risk: so drink up if you want to keep your mind sharp! Finally, regular exercise has been linked with a lower risk of dementia. Just another reason to get your butt moving.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yoga and a Zen Recipe

I did a yoga class today at a neighbourhood studio. It was the first class I've done in about 3 years. Even though it wasn't the best class ever (the teacher wasn't all that experienced), it was wonderful to have an hour to myself and it reminded me how much I love yoga.

I used to do yoga once a week religiously for years. I started doing ashtanga (power yoga) because I was young and stupid and thought that an activity wasn't worthwhile unless it burned calories. But eventually I got tired of it and found I really wanted more of a restorative experience, especially since I already do so much cardio and high intensity exercise. I also got sick of the competitive attitude I was finding in some power yoga classes. I'm definitely not extraordinarily flexible and never really got to a super advanced level in yoga. I once accidently showed up to an advanced class at my old yoga studio and I was not made to feel welcome. So anyways, I switched to hatha yoga, a much gentler form, and never looked back.

Unfortunately, with no major income right now and significant tuition costs from school, I can't afford to pay to go to a yoga class regularly. Luckily, I spoke to my boss at the JCC, where I teach spinning, and she said I was welcome to drop in and do some classes there. So after Sherma starts next week, I'm hoping to get there on Tuesdays for a 1pm hatha class. I love being forced to slow down my body and my brain for an hour...I think it's really good for a neurotic, a-type like myself. Today was a nice treat which I feel I earned: I got 95% on my final paper for my Theories of Personality course!

Here is the recipe I tried last night and it was delish. I love cooking with nut butters. If you don't want to use peanut butter, you could use cashew butter. The pineapple, vinegar, soy sauce and chili give it a sweet, sour, salty, spicy combo that I love. Of course, you can just omit the chili if you don't like heat. This would make a great filling for wraps or serve over rice, which is what I did last night. It's also make entirely in one pot so there's not much to clean up. It can also simmer for a long time, so you have flexibility if you aren't sure when you will be serving it.

Pineapple Peanut Chicken

1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 onion, diced
1 large knob ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
2 tbls soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
Chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Crushed peanuts (optional)

Cook chicken in large pan or skillet over medium heat, until partially cooked. Add ginger, garlic, onion and pineapple with juice and cook until chicken is done and onion is softened. Add soy sauce, rice vinegar and peanut butter and turn heat down to low. Add cabbage and chili (if using) and simmer at least 30 minutes. If serving over brown rice, sprinkle each serving with some crushed peanuts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Help, I'm Raising a Broccoli-Eating Brat!

So I'm working on making piece with my family's eating habits (hard right now since Little A has decided she pretty much won't eat anything except watermelon and rice cakes now!)and trying to appreciate the fact that Big A will generally eat her veggies. Unfortunately, I feel like, aside from modelling a fairly healthy lifestyle, I'm failing her as a parent. In fact, I'm thinking when I finally have my counselling practice, I should put a disclaimer on my business cards and website stating that I help people having difficulties bringing a child into the world but that I can't help with difficulties of raising that child once he or she is here, because I have NO expertise in that area.

With Little A turning one yesterday, Big A's jealousy has become overwhelming. And while I suppose that, as well as her resultant petulance, is normal 3 year old behaviour, the truth is, she has been an incredibly difficult child since she was 18 months old. But only for Adam and I (and sometimes her grandparents). Big A is an angel at daycare. Since she was a toddler, her teachers have been shocked by her two-sided personality (sweet and cooperative until I come to pick her up and she becomes obnoxious, disrespectful and defiant)and made comments about how I need to be tougher with her. This week her teacher warned me that I better nip this in the bud before it gets out-of-hand. Well I'd say it's BEEN out-of-hand for a long time and I don't know what to do! She walks all over me no matter what I do. Punishments, bribery, positive reinforcement...I've tried it all. She clearly doesn't respect me at all. When I tell her to do something or not to do something, she completely ignores me.

I once asked one of the pediatrician's that works with Big A's doctor for advice. He said her behaviour is normal and I should be grateful that she misbehaves for me and not for others. While I admit that would be worse, it doesn't make raising this child any easier.

In one of my courses, we looked at how human development is shaped by both social/environmental and biological factors. I realize that Big A may be genetically programmed to be the way she is to some degree, but there is no doubt that parenting styles have a significant impact on a child's development. Clearly I am not doing something right. I've tried reading books and talking to my friends and I've gotten some great ideas. Some have helped and some have not. But ultimately, not much has changed. There are parenting experts in Toronto who offer counselling but I consulted one a few months ago and it is way too expensive. So I really don't know where to turn for help anymore. If anyone has any ideas, please lets me know!

Stay tuned for a new recipe I'm trying out tonight. If it's good, I'll post it tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Parenting, Food and Guilt

The anxiety over what your children eat begins the day they are born. To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? I know so many women who chose not to breastfeed, or were not able to breastfeed and spend far too much time beating themselves up and feeling guilty about it. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to breastfeed both my girls, but whether it will really make a significant difference to their future health and well-being is debateable.

Once your kids start eating solid foods, the stress and guilt only increases. I was so smug with Big A because I had her eating only organic, whole foods for the first year with absolutely NO added sugars or salt. I hand made everything. She ate squash, brown rice and white kidney bean casserole, mexican black bean, corn and brown rice casserole, organic chicken and sweet potatoes, brown rice pasta with tomato sauce and pureed veggies, organic spelt bread with organic apple butter, unsweetened organic yogurt, sugar-free organic spelt blueberry muffins and a whole host of organic fruit and veggie purees. She was breastfed until she was 20 months old. Unfortunately, it all fell apart when she was about 14 months old. That's when she simply began refusing things. No more beans, no more rice, no more pasta. By the time she started daycare at 16 months it was all over. She was introduced to regular cereal (Rice Krispies, Special K, etc.), crackers and other refined carbs that are forbidden in our house. She was also introduced to all sorts of good things she would never eat at home: chili, chicken breasts, vegetable soup, tuna or egg sandwiches, etc.

Although losing control of her diet made me a bit crazy for a while, I eventually came to accept it. Although, like most kids, she would love to eat a steady diet of chocolate, cupcakes and ice cream, we do our best to limit that stuff as much as possible without being too restrictive. Nonetheless, I have spent most of her life second guessing myself and agonizing over everything she eats or refuses to eat. I had myself convinced that every mouthful she eats has some impact in determining her future health and risk for disease. Since everyone in my family seems to die of cancer and my mother had breast cancer at age 52, I feel like I have to do everything I can to protect my children from this fate. The burden of this responsibility was making me insane and I'm happy to say I've gotten control of this craziness a little bit. First off, I've realized that Big A's diet is not that bad. The daycare options are usually pretty good (not 100% to my liking, but pretty good) and overall what she eats at home is pretty good too. Last night she asked for tofu sausages and broccoli for supper. Could certainly be worse! She loves the organic, nitrite-free turkey hot dogs I buy her and the organic whole wheat pizza and she loves yogurt and fruit. She enjoys all kinds of bread and is perfectly happy to have her organic peanut butter on 100% whole wheat, or spelt or whatever we give her. At my in-laws, she enthusiastically eats grilled fish or chicken, salad and the veggies she is served.

As for Little A, she isn't doing so well again lately. She just wants to eat fruit and rice cakes. But again, it could be worse. She doesn't seem to favour only sweet things (she prefers rice cakes to muffins or bread with almond butter or apple butter) and she generally likes ALL fruit. My big concern with her is simply that she may not be getting enough of the calories and fat that she needs.

In any case, a recent study that showed fruit and veggie consumption only decreased risk of cancer by 4% jolted me back to reality. You do your best to keep yourself and your family healthy, but ultimately there is so much of it that is out of your control. The best you can do is set a good example for your children. Eat well, exercise and don't smoke. Adam and I do our best in this regard and we have certainly succeeded in the exercise department. Big A is a natural athlete and generally loves all sports. She plays soccer at daycare on Mondays, she has two hours of sports play on Wednesdays that my mother-in-law takes her to, she does gymnastics on Saturday and she swims on Sunday. She also sometimes asks to walk on our treadmill. Usually she just goes about 5 minutes, but once she went almost 25 minutes! And Little A is proving to be just as active. She is almost walking and all she wants to do is move. Getting her to stay still long enough to change a diaper or dress her is an increasing challenge.

So I'm vowing to stop beating myself up and keep reminding myself that I'm doing my best. I am also going to focus on the positive and try to stop obsessing about all of our dietary and lifestyle imperfections. While we can all strive to improve ourselves, as parents, lets try to let go of the guilt and pat ourselves on the back for what we are doing well!

Editing before bed today to add this:

The girls snacked on organic strawberries on the journey home from daycare. Big A ate a poached egg, steamed broccoli for dinner...and I let her have a chocolate chip bran muffin for a treat (I made them for Little A's party on Thursday). Little A ate a bite of spinach pancake (and threw the rest), some fish, some kiwi, watermelon and the rest of her yogurt from breakfast. Oh, and Big A walked the whole way home from daycare. So you know what, I'm thinking we're not doing so bad!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stop "Wine"ing Please

P1: I can't believe next week is my last week of mat leave. Little A will be one year old on April 22nd (Earth Day!). Actually, what I can't believe is that I survived this year. I think I had some degree of post-partum depression/anxiety for at least the first 6 months of her life. So it's kind of ironic that she is such a happy baby...much more low maintenance and easy going than Big A ever was. I'm glad at least that my misery didn't affect her.

I am so excited to really begin focusing on my studies and career transition now. On April 28th I have a 3 hour volunteer orientation at Mount Sinai and I meet with Dr. M on May 14th...I so hope I can get started volunteering ASAP. I really think I can make a difference for women who have experienced a pregnancy loss, at least I hope I can. I know I could really have used the type of emotional support I will be offering when I went through my miscarriage.

P2: There is nothing worse than whining. Anyone with a child old enough to whine knows what I'm talking about. Big A is a champion whiner and it drives Adam and I NUTS. Of course, my mother likes to remind me what a champion whiner I was. All I can say is I now understand why it drove my own parents nuts. I don't know if it's reasonable to think Little A will be any better. As she learns to talk, I guess we'll see. I've read all sorts of strategies for dealing with whining in parenting books, but so far I've found no good solutions. But I probably make it worse because I always fall into the trap of trying to negotiate with Big A in order to avoid a full-blown tantrum. I've gotta stop that.

F1: I rarely drink anymore (between the ages of 13 and 25 I did more than my fair share of partying), but I do occasionally enjoy a glass or two of wine. Although my family is full of foodies who know their wine, and can distinguish good from bad, I don't know if I can say the same for myself. But I do know what I like and don't like. I HATE all wines from the new world (i.e. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa). I know that sounds weird but every time I try one I hate it, no matter what it is. Last night we had friends over for dinner and we drank some red wine. I had a glass of Shiraz from Australia from a bottle my parents and brother heartily enjoyed when they were visiting, just to see if I could distinguish what it is about these wines I don't like. Sure enough, I hated it and I can only say that these wines taste "musty" to me. I don't know what the proper wine lingo is, but that's how I would describe it. I then had a glass of Beaujolais from France and found it wonderful. Again, I don't know wine-speak well enough to articulate the taste. I just know I liked it.

F2: Exercise of the week: Incline bench press

One easy way to mix up your strength training workout is to do the same exercises you usually do, but from a different angle. So if you usually do bench press on a flat bench, try doing it on the incline bench or decline bench. You can also do chest press and chest flies on an incline or decline bench, rather than flat.

Anyone who has breastfed 2 or more children knows how important it is to keep the pectoral muscles strong. Without going into much detail, think of deflated balloons...

Friday, April 16, 2010

You might find this funny but it's snot

P1: I team taught the Brazilian Butt Lift class with the Group Ex director yesterday at the Toronto Athletic Club (TAC). Wow, this woman is like 38 weeks pregnant and she is still going strong. I feel like the fact that I taught spinning right up until a few days before having both girls is nothing compared to what she's been doing! The class definitely kicks your butt (mine's a bit sore today), so I'm going to have to come up with lots of different ways of challenging these enthusiastic folks. I am so excited to have a new class to teach!

P2: I really don't get the preschool psyche. After being fairly well behaved the whole time Adam was away, it all fell apart with Big A at bedtime last night. She kept calling us back up to her room after we put her to bed and then would scream each time we left her. She ended up screaming until she fell asleep. I can only guess that she was overwrought with emotion about having daddy home finally and just doesn't know how to handle it.

Little A woke up literally COVERED in snot. Poor thing seems to have caught Big A's cold. Between the two of them, I find myself wiping up a sea of mucus. Oh the joys of parenthood! Little A is proving to be just as active and busy as Big A was at this age. In fact, we may have to do further baby-proofing as Little A is getting into things that Big A never did. Like the toilet. While Big A was peeing the other night, Little A shoved her hand right down into the dirty water. Ugh! Thank goodness I was just about to give her a bath! But now Little A is constantly trying to lift the toilet seat so she can do it again. She is also getting into drawers and cupboards that Big A showed little interest in. Her curiosity combined with her rather advanced dexterity makes her a bit of a hazard. She also hates sitting in the back seat of our double stroller. Unfortunately, the way it is designed (Phil & Teds), the smaller child has to go in the back. So to entertain herself, Little A pulls everything out from the basket under the stroller and flings it on the sidewalk. This is getting very frustrating! We've lots things and everything is getting dirty because she throws it and before I notice, I've pushed the stroller right over it leaving dirty tire marks all over whatever it is (toy, piece of clothing Big A needs for daycare, etc.).

F1: There was an article in the paper about Paula Deen, the Food Network celebrity, being socially irresponsible. If you are not familiar with her, Deen is a woman from the southern U.S. who owns a few restaurants, has a cooking show and has published numerous cookbooks. Her style of cooking is, in my opinion, DISGUSTING and I wholeheartedly agree with the article. Picture bread pudding made with cinnamon buns or deep fried pound cake. You can't even argue that her stuff is at least "natural" if not ridiculously high in fat as she often starts her recipes with cake mixes and store bought pastry dough that is full of trans fat. Now most of us health conscious folks have moved away from the "fat free" craze of the 1990's, but Deen's stuff is seriously overkill. Once, out of curiousity, I watched her show and she made a 4 meat and cheese lasagna that she served sandwiched between 2 HUGE pieces of buttery garlic bread. Each portion was a 1/4 of the whole pan of lasagna AND a half the huge stick of bread. Goodness!

F2: If you run or walk regularly for fitness, don't forget to change your shoes every 6 months or so to avoid injury.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stretching the Truth

P1: So after submitting my first two papers for my Theories of Personality course, my professor emailed me to ask if I "Really had a PhD?". Excuse me? I told him that I absolutely did, that it was from the University of Toronto and I completed it in 2005. He apologized and explained that he had to ask because, (1)he's taught almost 7,000 students and I'm only the second PhD he's ever taught (thanks for rubbing in the fact that most people with a doctorate don't need to get another Masters degree to forward their career in the desired direction!), and (2) because if I don't actually have a PhD, it's unethical to say that I do. Duh? I was pretty insulted. What kind of person does he think I am? I would never misrepresent myself that way. In fact, from what I've learned in his course, only someone with a serious personality disorder would do such a thing!

P2: On the other hand, I am surprised by how often as a parent you do have to lie to your children. "We have to leave the park now, it's closing." "No, you can't watch tv, there are no shows on right now, there won't be anymore on until tomorrow morning." "Yes, I'm going to bed just as soon as you get into yours." "You won't like these cookies, they are extremely spicy." Recently Adam told Big A that her chocolate bunny that my mother bought her, which Adam ate, went "bad" and had to be thrown away.

But already at the tender age of almost 4, Big A has learned how to lie too. She is always telling us she has washed her hands after going to the bathroom, when we know she has not. And last night, she claimed she didn't need to finish her broccoli because she already had a lot of broccoli at daycare that day. When I asked her if I could confirm this with her teacher today, she backed down and finished her broccoli. Hmm...

F1: Apparently some food/entertaining experts suggest that you try to pass off store bought items to your guests as homemade...personally I think you risk making a fool of yourself if they call your bluff.

F2: Lately I've been craving yoga. I used to do it at least once a week until I got pregnant with Big A. I have maybe done it 2-3 times since then. But my treadmill hill walks make my hamstrings and glutes really tight and I feel like I never have more than a few minutes after my morning workouts to stretch before one of the girls is up. I'm thinking that once I have child care for Little A - starting in 2 weeks - I may try to fit in a class once a week when I can.

On the topic of stretching, I thought I would share some tips.

1. Always stretch the muscles you have worked at the END of each workout.

2.You should not do static stretching until the end of your workout. A proper warm up for cardio exercise should by "dynamic". So in other words, if you are going for a jog, start by walking and gradually pick up your pace. Or if you are on the stairclimber, start at a lower level and slowly pick up the intensity after a few minutes.

3. You only need to hold a stretch for about 30 seconds to restore length to muscles after a workout, but if you are trying to increase flexibility, that's when you need to hold stretches for a longer period, as you would in a yoga class.

4. Strength training does not inhibit flexibility.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Single Parents are Superheros

I don't know how single parents survive, I really don't. Each time Adam tells me he has to go away for work, I am panic stricken. When he went away last October it was somewhat of a disaster. I was so stressed I didn't sleep the whole time he was away and hiring our neighbours' nanny to help me out with the girls in the evenings backfired. Big A seemed resentful of the intrusion and was incredibly rude to her.

So far this time around, things have been better. I am trying to project the image of feeling in control to Big A because I think in the past part of the problem was she picked up on my anxiety. She's been behaving pretty well and hopefully this will continue until Adam gets back in a few days. I'm also making an effort to try and do some fun things, since I think she associates daddy with fun and me with routine (i.e. getting out the door in the morning, getting to daycare, getting home from daycare, etc.). Yesterday after I picked her up we went to a health food store where they have small shopping carts and I let her push it around and fill it up with what we needed while I pushed Little A in the stroller. She was thrilled and even more thrilled to be able to empty the cart on the check out for me. Today after I pick her up from daycare we are going to visit a new park and play for a bit.

I don't usually cook much when I'm alone because, (a) it's no fun to cook for yourself, (b) it's hard to find time when I'm trying to take care of both girls. Nevertheless, I managed to invent a new recipe last night that was quick, easy and delicious. I made it with Gardein meatless beef tips, but you can make it with real beef tips, steak strips or ordinary tofu. Gardein makes some of the tastiest veggie meat products I've tried. The only problem is they are quite pricey. They're products are available in Canada and the U.S.

Japaneses (Meatless) Beef and Veggie Wraps

1 pack Gardein beef tips (or 1/2 lb beef tips or steak strips, or 300g firm tofu)
500g (approx.) broccoli slaw
1 lb shitake mushrooms (or button mushrooms), sliced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced


1/4 cup tahini
1 tbls miso
2 tbls cooking sherry
2 tbls soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 knob fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp Japanese pepper and sesame seed blend (optional)
Chili flakes, to taste (optional)

4-10 inch whole wheat wraps

For sauce, mix all ingredients together and stir until smooth.

Throw beef tips and mushrooms into frying pan over medium high heat with broccoli slaw and stir until veggies are softened. Pour in sauce and stir. Add in green onions and turn down heat to medium low. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Fill wraps with mixture and fold up. Makes at least 4 huge wraps.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


In my Theories of Personality course we have been studying the concept of regression, which actually originates in Freudian psychoanalytic theory. I think a lot of Freudian theory is hogwash, but his work on defense mechanisms actually has some merit. Regression, or the return to a previous state of functioning, is one of the many defense mechanisms Freud believe that we use to protect our ego from external threats, or disturbing thoughts or situations. Regression is the one defense mechanism which usually occurs in children.

We seem to be dealing with regression with Big A a lot lately. It has been a really tough weekend. She has been whining and acting up constantly. I think jealousy of Little A is growing more and more as Little A grows. Big A wants to be fed, she wants to be carried, she claims she doesn't know how to put on her shoes (although after we told her she would not get a new big girl bicycle for her birthday unless she started putting on her own shoes, she suddenly remembered how...). When we hit these lows in her behaviour I always start questionning my parenting and wondering where I went wrong. I desperately wish I could get the Supernanny to come visit, but apparently she only does house calls in the U.S. and Great Britain. There are parents who need you here in Canada Supernanny!!

The timing of all of this sucks, of course, because Adam leaves tomorrow for a 3 day book tour to promote his latest book. I can only imagine how out of hand this is all going to get with me trying to manage both girls on my own. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...right?

Friday, April 9, 2010


I love breakfast. Not just because I love the food, but reading the newspaper and drinking coffee are so much more enjoyable first thing in the morning for some reason. But I do love the food. I love oatmeal and eat it every day. I used to eat cold cereal until grad school when I finally realized that I was lactose intolerant and my chronic stomach problems were due to the milk. Then I switched to hot cereal, made with water, and have not looked back since. I also find oatmeal much more satisfying. I can eat half a box of cold cereal and be hungry again in an hour. The only exception to my preference for oatmeal was during both my pregnancies. For some reason I developed an extreme aversion to oatmeal so I ate almond butter and toast and yogurt smoothies or a huge bowl of homemade muesli with fruit and yogurt when I was pregnant with Big A. When I was pregnant with Little A I started out doing the same as soon as my oatmeal aversion developed (by about 6 weeks), but then got intense raisin bran cravings. I was going through HUGE boxes of raisin bran each week. I hated this as it is so high in sugar and I would inevitably be hungry again in an hour...and would also be running to the toilet pretty often. But I could not control my craving. Fortunately, my lactose intolerance went away during both pregnancies. Anyhow, the biggest challenge I always find when we travel, is finding a place to go for breakfast. Cold cereal or a muffin just doesn't cut it for me. Consequently, through much research I have managed to find great, healthy places. In NYC, it was a place called Wildgreen Cafe, which, unfortunately, is now closed. In Chicago, it was the West Egg Cafe, which I highly recommend. I never go out for breakfast in Toronto because I would rather have my oatmeal than anything else, but I have also learned never to order oatmeal in a restaurant. It is a very personal thing, oatmeal. I have mastered the art of making it just how I like it (not to thin and not too thick...lots of cinnamon, sweet but not too sweet, etc.), but it simply cannot be replicated by anyone else. I also like it plain with just cinnamon, ground flax seed, a pinch of salt and sweetener. No nuts, raisins or fruit. I once heard that adding pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice is good... when I tried it I almost threw up I thought it was so disgusting! I also only like quick oats. Not instant, not large flake and not steel cut. I've tried to make myself switch to large flake or steel cut because they are lower on the glycemic index, but I just can't do it. The texture doesn't do it for me and I simply don't enjoy it nearly as much.

Breakfast is also a stressful time with the girls. I am usually alone with them and trying desperately to get a healthy meal consumed in a reasonable amount of time. Big A LOVES LOVES LOVES cold cereal. I hate that because most of them are so full of sugar. Her favorite is this organic corn cereal that is really just fancy corn puffs. They have zero nutritional value. They are so high in sugar she is bouncing off the ceiling some mornings after a few bowls. I am always encouraging her to have other things such as oatmeal, eggs or toast and almond butter. Sometimes I'm successful but usually I'm not.

Little A is just so unpredictable in terms of whether she will eat her bread and almond butter. This morning it was a no-go again so I gave up and started digging around for an alternative. Since she's now taking yogurt off a spoon, I decided to take a risk and make her some hot cereal. I'd already given all the infant cereal we had for her to my sister-in-law for my niece, since Little A wouldn't eat it, so I found some organic oatbran cereal in the cupboard. I cooked it up with banana and cinnamon, the same way I make Big A her oatmeal. To my surprise, Little A let me feed her the whole big bowl! Unfortunately, I only had skim milk to make it with, but I am going to defrost some breast milk from the freezer and make it with that tomorrow so she can get some more fat and protein in this meal. Of course, knowing my luck, she won't eat it tomorrow...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April Showers...

We seem to have never ending rain this week and it is supposed to continue through the weekend until next week. Yuck!

P1: The past few days I have been working on a Lunch and Learn seminar I will be giving to corporate clients of the fitness consulting company I got hired with. It's on fitess/health goal setting, fitness myths and back care. I've been teaching myself how to use all the fancy animation stuff in Powerpoint, and it's actually kind of fun. The seminar isn't until June so I have lots of time to tinker with it.

P2: Little A is still so all over the place with her eating. One day is great, the next is terrible. I no longer worry, but more than anything, it is just frustrating because I can never predict what she will want, which means there is often lots of mess and wasted food. Tuesday at breakfast she refused her bread and almond butter and screamed when I gave her banana, yesterday she happy devoured both, today she refused both the bread and the banana again. Fortunately, she has started allowing us to feed her yogurt (first thing she's allowed us to feed her off a spoon in many months) so that is my new breakfast alternative. I'm wondering what things I can get away with hiding in yogurt? Last night she had an amazing dinner actually. She ate 1.5 spinach pancakes, 2 sweet potato pancakes, 2 fish sticks, kiwi fruit, melon and some of her organic puffed corn snacks...I couldn't believe it!

Things with Big A have been pretty good lately. We've had a few issues with her recently, but she usually snaps out of a mood pretty quickly. Because of all the rain, the sidewalks have been covered in worms, which I pointed out to her on the way to daycare the other day. She is now obsessed with finding worms. It's kind of cute. She insists that I don't go over them with the stroller so they don't get squished. That was actually pretty tough this morning because there were so many.

F1: Instead of putting jam on Little A's almond butter and bread, I use a homemade apricot spread. It's organic and has no added sugar. You could make it with just about any dried fruit. It's so easy. Here is the recipe:

Apricot Spread

2 lb organic dried apricots
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Put apricots and cinnamon in sauce pan and add just enough water to cover. Put lid on pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Remove lid and turn heat down to low. Simmer until most of water is absorbed and apricots are soft. Remove from heat and cool. Throw into food processer and add more water until a thick, spreadable consistency is reached. Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze over night. Dump cubes (they will stay soft, even when frozen) in Ziplock bag and remove from freezer as needed.

F2: Did you know that regular exercise can prevent and treat mild depression and anxiety problems? Just another reason to get moving...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I LOVE avocados. They are so delicious AND nutritious. Unfortunately both my girls hate them and even Adam is not a big fan. So I can't cook with them. Consequently, I often incorporate them into my lunches so I can enjoy them on my own. Like today, I had scrambled eggs and guacamole in a whole wheat pita. Yum! Sometimes I make a grilled chicken and guacamole sandwich, it's yummy too. Here is my recipe for guacamole:

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
4 roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 or whole fresh or pickled jalapeno pepper, to taste (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbls bottled salsa (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Mash avocado to desired consistency (I like to leave it a bit chunky) and then add all the other ingredients. Enjoy!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pet Peeves Continued...

11. Product packaging that requires dynamite to be removed
12. Cooking smells on my hair and/or clothing
13. Smell of chlorine on skin after swimming
14. People who smoke
15. Telemarketers
16. Loud motorcycle engines (one just went past my window)
17. When my children won't even TRY a new food
18. When I bite my tongue (did this in my sleep the other night!)
19. When an article I want for school is not available from the library or online and must be "purchased"
20. When my favorite t.v. shows are pre-empted...usually for some stupid sports event.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

P1: I am happy to report I got 100% on my first quiz, and 95% on my first paper in my Theories of Personality course. I feel like the material is coming pretty naturally to me simply because I find it so interesting. I am getting more and more excited about my new career path. I really feel like this is the direction I was meant to be going in all along. That being said, I no longer wallow in regret that I spent so many years on the "wrong" path. I think if I had gone into counselling right after my BA, as I had originally planned, it would have been a disaster simply because I didn't have the maturity or life experience required. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

P2: We have had another great weekend with the girls. Big A has been good, even though my parents were visiting - which sometimes stimulates some acting up due to a larger audience being present, and Little A has been good too, aside from some grumpiness yesterday which we finally figured out right before putting her down for the night, was due to her cutting a new tooth. She also gorged on sweet potato fries that we got from the BBQ restaurant we ordered from last night. Don't know why she likes the fried ones so much more than the healthier baked ones I make her...

We were able to coerce Big A into naps and all sorts of things this weekend with the promise of a piece of my father's birthday cake (we had an early birthday celebration for him last night). In the end, she only ate a few bites of the cake, but boy did we get our money's worth with the leverage it provided us!!

Because the weather has been so warm and wonderful, we've been to the park a few times this weekend and had so much fun. Now that Little A is almost a year old, I finally feel like I'm getting my sanity back. Last summer Little A was too small for the park and I had to be nursing her every few hours so weekend afternoons often involved Big A and Adam going to the park while I stayed home with Little A, and I would feel lonely and depressed. Now we can do so many more things all together as a family and it's great. I feel truly blessed to have such a beautiful family (and to have made it through the first year alive with 2 kids!!!).

F1: I have eaten way more red meat than is wise this past week. I love it but try not to eat it too often. At this point, I am now sick of meat and potatoes so Adam can eat his Kosher for Passover supper by himself tonight while I eat the banana blueberry pancakes I'm making. Of course any pancakes or waffles or French toast I make are merely a convenient vehicle for maple syrup or honey. I LOVE them!!!!! They had a story on the news last week about how they've discovered that maple syrup has as many antioxidents as some fruits and veggies. Yeah, another reason to eat more! Of course, they said you should stick to 2 tbls per serving. That made me laugh: I probably use a half cup at least. I love honey too, and sometimes put honey on pancakes instead of syrup, especially when I make my raspberry cornmeal pancakes, which are really good with honey. However, one of my favorite treats is just a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread. I could eat these types of treats for dinner more often, except Adam is not a big fan...he prefers regular (savoury) dinner food. Sometimes it's a real drag that Adam doesn't share my affinity for "breakfast for dinner" and doesn't eat pork or seafood or milk and meat together and doesn't like cheese or eggs or tuna...I always tell him that I need to find someone to have a "culinary affair" with because it's not the same to cook elaborate dinners (like lobster, for example) just for myself. Perhaps one day Big and/or Little A will share these types of meals with me. I guess that partly depends on how observant they decide to be with their Judaism and how picky they are with their food (hopefully less picky than they are now!!).

F2: Exercise of the week: Body weight tricep dips

This is a great exercise you can do at home with no equipment. Sit on a stair or large chair that won't tip from the weight of your body (or exercise bench) and place both your hands flat on whatever you are sitting on with your fingers hanging off the edge facing your heels. Feet are parallel and flat on the floor. The further away your feet are from your hands, the harder this exercise will be, so your knees can be bent or straight, depending on how strong your arms are. Slide your butt of and start bending your arms, keeping your elbows pointing backwards. Don't let the movement come from your torso and make sure you bend your arms low in order to target your triceps. Do at least 2 sets of 15 reps. If this isn't clear, check out the illustration here:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools!

P1: I finally have drafts completed of my last 2 papers for my course. I'm feeling pretty good about them but Adam is going to give me feedback on the long one today, so we'll see if I'm deluding myself by thinking it's impressive.

P2: I had a bad start to the morning with Big A today. She started acting up seemingly out of knowhere and it escalated to a full-blown tantrum. Unfortunately, I didn't handle it well. I tried demanding an explanation from her about why she was misbehaving. The parenting experts tell you never to do this because little kids don't really know why they do the things they do. In hindsight, I think she simply wanted my attention and that's all it was. It began when I was upstairs in the bathroom getting ready and she was eating her cereal in the living room watching television by herself. Perhaps I am asking too much of her to sit by herself in the mornings. Later, once we had made up, she wanted hugs and to sit on my lap and for me to sit in the living room with her. Clearly she just wanted some attention and company. It's just hard to give her 100% of my attention in the mornings when I'm on my own with both girls and need to get stuff done. I guess this is the plight of most mothers. Once it was resolved, we played an April Fool's Day trick on Adam. We called him at work and told him we saw a mouse in the kitchen. He was freaked and said we better call an exterminator. So Big A then yelled, "April Fools!"

Little A has finally discovered walking (assisted at this point, of course). She holds onto the push cart that Big A used to learn to walk and pushes it from one end of the living room to another. The biggest benefit is this activity makes her tired and hungry.

F1: I firmly believe that if you eat substantial, well-balanced meals, you only need to snack on fruits and veggies. If you don't, you likely need to add some protein to your snacks (a small serving of cheese, nuts or yogurt, etc.). But I tend to eat quite a bit of protein at my meals (for example, for lunch today I have 2 wild salmon fillets), so fruits and veggies are good snacks for me. One tip I have, is that just about any fruit gets sweeter when you roast it or grill it and makes for a very healthy, but indulgent tasting snack. Right now the plums I have been buying taste like candy when I roast them with a little cinnamon, they don't even need any sweetener. And plums, like prunes obviously, have a lot of fiber to keep you regular and feeling full. Even berries can be cooked into a compote. You can add cinnamon or other spices or citrus zest or vanilla to your cooked fruits for great flavour. Cooking fruit is also a good way to use up fruit that is no longer in it's prime or not very tasty to begin with. You can also spoon cooked fruits over waffles, pancakes or yogurt. Try it, you may never need unhealthy snacks again!

This weekend is Easter weekend so my parents are visiting and we are celebrating my dad's birthday. Unfortunately, Adam will be eating "Kosher for Passover" until next Tuesday night so tomorrow will just be chicken, spinach and quinoa for supper. Saturday we are doing take-out with my parents from a new bbq joint that is supposed to be good and Sunday, I'll feed Adam chicken, veggies and potatoes, but I'm going to make Big A and I the banana pancakes I've been craving. Here is the recipe.

Banana Blueberry Pancakes

2.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbls baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

2 ripe bananas
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
blueberries (maybe a 1/2 pint)

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mash bananas and mix in eggs and vanilla with whisk. Add 1 cup of cold water and stir. Add wet ingredients and blueberries to dry and add more water until you have a thick batter (don't make batter too thin 0r runny or blueberries will split the pancakes when you try to flip them). Drop ladels of batter onto hot, greased griddle or frying pan . When first side is done (edges are getting dry and bubbles do no longer fill with batter), carefully flip pancakes and cook another few minutes until golden. Makes about 8 large pancakes or 16 smaller ones. Serve with maple syrup or blueberry sauce.

F2: MBT shoes...I can't say enough good things about them. I bought them as a treat to myself at the end of my pregnancy with Little A. I have all sorts of foot problems that got worse during the pregnancy. So I decided to try a pair, having confirmed their value with my podiatrist. They are extremely expensive ($250 and up), but are so worth it. I do a lot of walking and they are the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned. I wear them every day. I would love to get the boots but they are $400, and with little income to speak of and tuition costs right now, I simply cannot justify it. If you do a lot of walking, I highly recommend these shoes!!!