Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baking, Part 2

This is the cake

This is the toddler on cake
Any questions?
If you haven't already tried the yogurt cake recipe from Bringing Up Bebe, see the previous post and give it a try. Suggestion from baker extraordinaire Carolyn: use the recipe to make muffins instead of a cake. She says it makes them brown all over, which sounds awesome. Also, they probably won't be liquid in the middle, as my above cake was.

I continued my brownie experiments too (and I wonder why my jeans are feeling tight). This brownie recipe is AWESOME, and really easy. Almost as easy as making brownies from a box. And so much tastier. I used Ghiardelli cocoa powder, which probably helped.

Anyone have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe they want to share? I'm going to have to track down Aunt Dotsie's cream cheese cookie recipe. That is my all time favorite. I'll share it here if she lets me.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Baking is NOT an Exact Science

In honor of everyone's favorite food holiday, I'd like to encourage those of you who are intimidated by baking to give it a try. Here's what bakers don't want us to know: it's not an exact science. I know, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But a friend posted something on Facebook about improvising when baking recently, and when I questioned her further, she insisted it was possible, that all I needed was trial and error. I remained skeptical.

But just as when you're pregnant, suddenly you see baby bumps everywhere, with my baking antenna up, I kept hearing the same message: there is wiggle room. Feeling brave, I attempted the yogurt cake recipe, found in Bringing Up Bébé, a lovely memoir by Pamela Druckerman, an American woman raising her children in France. Druckerman claims a toddler can make this cake on their own and not mess up, because the measurements don't have to be exact. I was intrigued, but thought I'd try it myself before involving Daniel.

My only problem was that the only yogurt I had was Greek. When I folded this into the batter, it seemed too thick, so I added some milk and hoped for the best. It came out beautifully—my friend Carolyn said it looked like something from a patisserie. I don’t know about that, but it tasted good, and looked good too.

Spurred on by my success, I offered to bring dessert to a friend’s house after a last minute dinner invitation. Daniel was napping, so I scanned the cabinets. I had chocolate chips, but not enough to make Blondies, my only baking standard. I looked in my trusty How to Cook Everything for a Brownie recipe. It called for unsweetened chocolate, but I figured semi-sweet chips would just be a bit sweeter. (A substitution I wouldn't have dared make a few weeks prior.) After I began melting the chocolate and butter, I realized that all our eggs were hard-boiled. Grr.

With my new baking confidence, I scanned the internet for an egg-free brownie recipe, and found one that uses flour and water as a binder instead of eggs. It called for cocoa powder rather than chocolate, so I was really putting my improvising theory to the test. I figured with chocolate, butter, flour and sugar, even if they weren't a masterpiece, how bad could they taste? I sprinkled some sea salt and chocolate chips on top of the batter for good measure and prayed to the kitchen gods.

My dinner companions oohed and aahed when I revealed the pan of brownies. I sliced them, noting a cakey consistency, then wished I would have tasted them at home. But I channeled Julia Child, and decided to just laugh it off if they were horrible. Thankfully, they tasted quite good. Yes, they were more cake than brownie, but still delicious.

Maybe I’ll ask Santa for some baking tins and attempt the cupcakes with caramel filling Liz told me about. This new hobby could really increase my dinner invitations.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Grandparent Love

Grandmom, Daniel, Nalu, Pop-pop and Heidi

Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on many people’s lives. I feel very lucky that the storm passed over us, leaving our heat and electricity intact, our trees in the ground. Still, it wasn’t the best week, between the stress of the storm and being cooped up at home. By Wednesday I was thrilled to go to work, to return to normal life. But then my thirty minute commute took ninety minutes, and everywhere I went people seemed cranky, depleted, hurried. All of this was manageable. Then I came home to Unhappy Daniel.

Daniel even has a G-G-mom to love him
Although the first five months of his life were extremely challenging, since then, my child has shown a happy disposition. Unless he’s tired, hungry, or in pain he rarely cries. I love this about him. But teething + diaper rash = extreme crankiness. For example, when I would try to pick him up to change his diaper last week, he would go completely slack, then kick and scream. Once I saw his raw bottom, I understood why, but his antics didn’t make things any easier. Then he would ask for a bottle, I would get one, then he would cry, point at it, saying, “Ba-ba, ba-ba.” I’d say, “Here it is,” and try to hand it to him, but he would just keep asking for it, refuse to take it, and keep crying. I called the doctor, administered some Tylenol, and though we had a few windows of calm, my nerves were shot by Thursday night.

I worked Friday, thank God, but Saturday Daniel and I were on our own again. I arranged for a babysitter for the morning so I could write and have a little down time. That helped a lot. But still, by 4 PM, I had exhausted all my internal resources. I had to call in the big guns, the grandparents.

Things improved as soon as Grandmom and Pop-Pop showed up. Their absolute delight in Daniel lifted everybody’s mood. My whining, crying, inconsolable child morphed into a content, even pleasant soul under their loving attention. We ventured out to dinner, and through a 20 minute wait for a table, and a 90 minute meal, he was delightful, waving to the waitresses, flirting with other patrons, quietly eating. It was a quasi-miraculous change.

Man, does he love Pop-pop
With Daniel, a change of scenery generally helps, as does seeing people other than just Carl and me. But I saw on Saturday that there’s something extra special about grandparent love. Nothing I had done in the previous two days had pleased or calmed him, but their very presence did both within minutes.

Watching how he bloomed under their care reminded me of how I felt with my own Grandmom. Even as an adult, just being with her made me feel cherished, safe, calm. I remember having breakfast with her one morning when I had an important project due for law school. I was full of angst and worry, but her complete confidence in my abilities fortified me, helped me believe in myself again.

I know my parents have always loved me, but with my Grandmom, that’s all there was – no angst, no battles about discipline or anything else. Maybe that’s what makes the grandparent relationship so special. It can be pure love. It’s like a beloved friend v. a roommate. With the friend, you see what’s lovely and charming, without having to fight about the dishes in the sink. I think a grandparent’s love can be the closest thing to unconditional that many of us feel. Seeing Daniel experience this is one of the best gifts I’ve received from parenthood.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween

We went to the birds this year. My pretty peacock and my dashing parrott flew around the neighborhood collecting candy. I had a great bird related costume idea to be a "tweet." Like many things in my life, idea and execution didn't come together, so I went as myself, a tired but loving mom.

My tweet would have said, "This year the Ackermans say trick or tweet."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fanciest Pug?

My favorite day of the year, Pug-o-ween, was this past Sunday. Our sweet Nalu, dressed as a peacock, won Fanciest Pug. Yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms, but I took the prize and ran. If only every day could be Pug-o-ween.
Nalu the peacock 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Embracing Fall

One benefit of Fall: adorable hats

Some people love crisp air, college football, pumpkin patches; I am not one of those people. Every Fall I mourn the loss of long days, warm weather, and especially the summer ocean. But since I live in the Northeast U.S., and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon, I’m making a truce this autumn: I won’t hate Fall, and Fall won’t make me insufferable. Here are a few things I genuinely like about this time of year. If you can add to my list, please do. I’m trying here, people. Help a sister out.

I like that we’re home more in Fall. In the Spring and Summer, Carl and I flee Philly almost every weekend to go somewhere, usually the shore. By September, I find I really miss my friends, my neighborhood, and my house. It’s nice to have weekends at home to rediscover things like the Please Touch Museum and La Michoacana. I cook more, I tend our house more, I feel more settled, more productive, and more grounded.

Like every woman, I enjoy putting away bathing suits in favor of jeans, boots, jackets, scarves. This year, with the cooler weather, I finally discovered baby boy clothes just as cute as all the pink and frilly stuff for baby girls. My little man in a fleece vest, faded jeans and wool cap can compete with a tutu and sparkly shoes any day.

Begrudgingly, I admit that autumn contains some of my favorite holidays. From the pressure-free Jewish holidays to the Thanksgiving feast, Fall holidays mean food and family to me. We also celebrate Friendsgiving every November, a gathering of some of my oldest and dearest friends, complete with turkey, stuffing, and spicy sweet potatoes. So maybe every day isn’t as beautiful as summer, but some highlights brighten the season, just like the chipotle peppers brighten Matt's sweet potatoes.

As for Halloween, it's never been my favorite day. One year I rocked an 80s Miss America costume, with a floor length brown and gold sequin dress, complete with sequin bolero jacket. But most years I just feel pressured to have some great costume idea or some cool party to attend, and when I have neither, feel bad about myself. Now Pug-o-ween is a different story. You know, the annual tradition to dress your pug in costume. Nalu has dressed up as a ladybug, a hula girl, and this year she’s the prettiest little puggy peacock. The only thing better than one pug in costume is a party of forty pugs in costume. It almost makes October enjoyable.

I’m not going to carve a pumpkin, or buy a haystack for the porch, or string up Halloween lights. I’m not going to don a Fordham Rams jersey. (Do they even sell those?) But maybe by focusing on the things I genuinely like about this time of year, I can temper the sadness I feel about summer ending. It’s worth a try anyway.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

10 Sweetest Things - 15 Months

I have always enjoyed the stage of life when kids start talking. It's fascinating to me to see what's on their little minds. Now, with my own child, it feels downright miraculous to hear him say, "no," or "monkey" or "diaper" in appropriate context. He might just be a genius. Here are a few other amazing things:

1. He toddles across the room, puts his head in my lap and says, "Hi Mama."

2. He says, "Bye bye," while opening and closing his entire hand.

3. He gives kisses, in slow motion, approaching the cheek, planting his lips, then smacking them together.

4. He hurtles down slides with a look of pure joy.

5. He reads books to himself, turning the pages and cracking up.

6. After I put him down for a nap, and close the door, I'll hear him say, "Night night."

7. He refuses to say, "Hi, Grandmom," but he perfectly enunciates, "Hi, Peg."

8. He clicks his tongue in time to the turn signal.

9. When he's upset, he'll calm down if I mention one of his favorite people, like Pop-pop, or Charlotte, or Tessa.

And my very favorite thing he does right now:

10. He shouts "A-men!" whenever we sit down to eat. Last week at church, after the sermon, when all was quiet, you could hear his Amen reverberate through the crowd. Yes, he already has a sense of timing. Like I said, genius.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Give a Little Leeway

This week, when my normal impatience arose, I breathed deeply and reminded myself that most of the world is going through back to school transition, and therefore may need some extra leeway. I’m happy to report it made for a pretty peaceful week.

Change is hard for me, even good change. In June, when Carl’s school year ends, and he’s around more, I love it, but the transition is still hard. Now, after a lovely summer, Carl is back to work, Daniel is back to the babysitter, and I’m back to managing more of the household. Going into the week I worried. How would Daniel adjust, after hanging out with Daddy all summer? How would Carl adjust to work life again? What about our poor puggy, home alone so much more?

To maximize peace in our home, and within myself, I decided to try giving everyone extra leeway for the week. Rather than reprimand myself for failing to write enough, I praised myself for writing at all. Rather than battle with Daniel about his nap, I surrendered, played with him, took him to Target. Rather than chastise Carl for coming home late, I invited a friend over for a play date. In all cases, life was much more enjoyable. I even forgave the asshole who cut me off in traffic yesterday. Yes, I felt the flood of righteous anger, but I remembered leeway, and had some compassion for his hurry.

This week, with all its changes, was so peaceful that I’m wondering if leeway should be a permanent mantra. Maybe I’m always harder on people, including myself, than is necessary or helpful. Maybe I’d be happier with lower expectations and greater acceptance of shortcomings. Hm. Maybe I’ll extend it another week and see how it goes.

Where do you fall on the leeway scale? Do you give too little or too much?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

10 Sweetest Things - 13 Months

Daniel's first carousel ride

The struggle and stress of motherhood is tempered by so much sweetness. These are some of my favorite things about Daniel at 13 months.

1. He took his first steps, all casual like, making me suspect he's been walking for months behind our backs.
2. Every morning, his first word when he sees me in the morning is “Nalu" (our dog's name.)
3. He says "Hi!" and "Bye bye" to everyone who passes him.
4. He makes the signs for "more" "all done" and "please."
5. He speaks with exaggerated mouth movement and enunciation. When he says "cracker" it looks like a puppet's mouth opening and closing.
6. He snaps his fingers while clicking with his tongue – as if he’s fooling anyone.
7. He reaches his arms up to signal he wants a hug. 
8. He laughs with delight as Nalu wrestles with his stuffed animals.
9. He sings "Row row row your boat."
10. He giggles and yells with equal enthusiasm. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Daniel Has an Imperfect Mother

I’ve been cranky recently. Call it bitchy, call it a short fuse, whatever it is, Daniel has seen and felt it. It’s not about him. He’s being his lovely one-year-old self: mostly delightful, sometimes frustrating. But my moodiness felt bad enough that I took myself back to the Postpartum Stress Center today, to talk to Marcie, the counselor who helped me out of my depression six months back.

I vented it all. Everything I’ve been angry about lately, starting close to home, ending with the Catholic Church, with many things in between. After I was done, Marcie observed that I seemed “loaded for bear.” I had to agree. She added that when I don’t make time for myself, I get cranky. I nodded. She reminded me it was my responsibility to carve out alone time to write, to renew, to refresh. This rang some bells. “You ignore this at your peril,” she said.

I know everything she said to be true. We have covered this ground before. But the sneaky belief that it's selfish to need alone time had crept back in and taken over. My work for the moment is to accept the following as true: Whether I like it or not, I need alone time to be healthy. In its absence, I get grumpy, and grumpy can slide into depression. I wish I could handle everything with aplomb and grace, but I can't. Based on past experience, I show a lot more of both if I'm regularly refreshing myself with time alone to write, to dream, to play.

I’m sorry, Daniel, that you have a mom who gets depressed. I’m sorry you have a mom who needs breaks from you. I wish I could protect you from all pain, but I can't. I hope that by taking care of myself, I will set an example for you, one that will help you to care for yourself one day. You are my sunshine, my delight, the heart of my heart. I hope you always know and believe that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Practicing Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is not forgetting, it’s letting go of the hurt.” Mary McLeod Bethune

Tuesday morning, I heard a talk about forgiveness. The speaker shared some helpful ideas, and read the above quote. I sat there thinking, “I’m really not angry with anyone right now.” Then Carl came home from Sweden.

After a whirlwind long weekend in Europe, Carl was understandably tired. We disagreed about something, he got angry, I got angrier. So much for absence making the heart grow fonder.

Luckily, I knew enough to not continue the fight that night. I even (miraculously) controlled my urge to talk shit about him with my girlfriends. Somehow, I managed to do things that helped: I focused on work, I practiced yoga, I meditated, I carved out writing time. I did talk about it, but only with two friends who think highly of Carl, not the people who would get on my self-righteous express.

After some time and space to cool down, I realized my part of the problem: while Carl had been away, I had done too much. I had gone to the shore and back, I had hosted a birthday party for myself, a Father’s Day dinner, and prepared for Daniel’s birthday party. Also I had worked, done all the usual household stuff, and cared for a baby who cut four teeth and had a horrific rash. By the time Carl returned, I was a firecracker; he just lit the fuse.

It’s annoying to realize my part of things. If I blame everything on Carl, I can just feel sorry for myself, play that comfortable victim role. But that's not really what I really want. When I see my part, I have choices about my behavior. In this case, once I realized how exhausted I was and why, I let myself off the hook a little. I vowed to refill my internal well, by resting, eating well, nurturing myself. I forgave myself for falling into my old habit of overextending, and promised to do less next time I’m on my own with Daniel for a few days.

As for my husband, he, like all of us, is entitled to have a bad day. My job is to take care of myself well enough that other people’s bad moods slide over me. This actually works. If you haven’t tried it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

10 Sweetest Things - 11 Months

Daniel turns 11 months old today. This has been simultaneously the best and hardest 11 months of my life. One of the greatest gifts of motherhood is that I really appreciate small things now. On Mother's Day, I had a glass of champagne and a plate of mussels with a dear friend, sitting by an open window, feeling the Spring breeze, and it was heavenly. She said to me, "Remember when this was normal? Did we appreciate it then?" I don't know that you can appreciate an afternoon glass of champagne when it's normal. But now that alone time with my besties is a treat, I treasure it.

Similarly, living with an infant grounds me in the moment in a way nothing ever has before. So many times a day I find myself trying to soak up and absorb the sweetness of a given moment, not to hold onto it so much as to enjoy it while it's happening. Below are a list of recent sweet things. I hope you're enjoying the sweetness of your life today.

1.      When I come home from work, Daniel scoots as fast as he can toward the door, with a huge grin and the happiest noises I’ve ever heard a human make.
2.      When he’s tired, he’ll rest his head on my chest as I rock him.
3.      He sleeps through the night, and naps like a champ (most days).
4.      He caws like a crow, he quacks like a duck, and makes a cara fea (ugly face) on demand.
5.      When I’m out of sight, I’ll hear him coming down the hall, getting more excited as he gets close, then squeal with delight when he finds me.
6.      When Carl brought him his favorite blankie (knitted by Grandma) the other day, he smiled, kicked his legs and wiggled in joy. 
7.      He’s a good mimic. Latest word – elevator.
8.      He buries his face in anyone or anything he loves.
9.      He hugs my legs from behind when I’m at the kitchen counter.
10.  He kisses pictures of babies in books.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Motherhood, My Way

Daniel rocking a Peruvian alpaca sweater

Something I’ve found hard as a mom is responding to other people’s expectations of what I should be doing. (Or what I think other people think I should be doing.) The most innocent question, like “what are you doing for Daniel’s first Easter?” can induce rage, defensiveness, derision. “Uh, he has no concept what Easter is, so nothing,” is what I want to say. I felt resentful about what everyone seemed to think I should do for his first Christmas, so you can imagine how I feel with his first birthday approaching.

I know moms who have formal pictures taken for every holiday – even St. Patrick’s and Valentine’s Day. I know moms who knitted stockings for baby’s first Christmas. I know moms who are planning elaborate first birthday parties. Because I have a tendency to compare myself to others, when I hear this I ask myself, why aren’t you doing that?

But recently a new thought occurred to me: maybe those moms do those things because they enjoy it, not because they’re caving to social pressure. I really enjoy dressing up. I’ve had people ask me, snottily, why I was wearing pearls on a Tuesday afternoon. The answer is, I just like to. It makes me happy. Similarly, I love to put my little man in cute outfits. I suspect very soon he’ll start having opinions about what he wears, so I’m taking advantage of this time to dress him the way I want to. Not to impress anyone. Not because formal wear is important for babies – just because it makes me smile.

So here’s my thought for Mother’s Day: motherhood has plenty of drudgery. Let’s all make a pact to not make it harder for ourselves than it has to be. I’m going to do mom things that bring me joy, and leave the photo shoots, crafts and parties for the Martha Stewart types. Happier mom means happier Daniel. So it will be pizza and cake for his first birthday, with whoever can show up on a Tuesday night. Maybe I'll wear pearls.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Adios a Cuzco

It´s with a heavy heart I say goodbye to Cuzco tonight. As with so many places I´ve been, like Paris, Mexico City, Lisbon, I´m leaving wanting more. Four days was not nearly enough.

And yet, we had a whole day to wander the streets on our own yesterday. That´s my favorite thing to do in any city I visit. We climbed cobblestone hills, we rested in plazas, we bartered for gifts. We befriended Augusta and her son Cesar Augusto, a two year old who rode around town strapped to his mommy´s back all day. It was a gorgeous, unscheduled, group-free day--utterly glorious.

Today we rode out to a llama farm, through scenic mountain towns, past Incan ruins named something that sounds just like "Sexy Woman." I loved the llamas and alpacas. I could have spent hours feeding them, petting them, admiring the babies. Then we watched traditional weaving, and saw how they make dyes from plants. And yes, then we shopped and shopped and shopped some more.

I saw the Sacred Valley, the mountains and rivers. I explored the city of Cuzco, even popped into a few churches tonight on the way to dinner. I ate like an Incan princess, and lived like Spanish royalty. This trip was so much more than I ever could have dreamed. So I will try to focus on all we did, and not the things I would also like to do. Maybe I´ll just have to set my next novel in Cuzco, so that we´ll have to return.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hola from Peru

Dear readers, through a generous twist of fate, I find myself in Peru for a week with my dear friend Jan. Life is bueno. Muy bueno.

We spent the first twenty four hours in Lima. I was reminded of my mom´s saying, "If your standards are low enough you can have fun anywhere." Many people in our group weren´t impressed with Lima, and I´ve been better places, but for the mother of a 10 month old baby, I was honestly thrilled to sleep until 9 a.m., have a cup of coffee in a quiet hotel room, and enjoy the ocean view. Also, I got to take a nap later. That´s a damn good day.

Then today we landed in Cusco. If Lima felt like a generic city, Cusco is what I imagined Peru would be. Bright colorful textiles, old stone plazas, grand churches, baby llamas.
Cusco is literally breathtaking--at 12,000 feet, it is very difficult to breathe. When we landed I felt short of breath and light headed. My heart pounded. Very disconcerting. But I´d been hydrating all day, and I sat down while we waited for our luggage. When we arrived at the hotel, I immediately sat down and was served a cup of coca tea. This is what the locals drink to help with the altitude. It´s miraculous. After two cups I felt almost normal. So what if it´s made from the same plant that´s used to make cocaine? This is vacation after all.
After lunch in an ancient monestary, a bath in the sumptuous jacuzzi, and another nap, we headed to dinner. We are traveling with a super nice group of folks, eating and drinking like royalty, and not paying for any of it. A girl could really get used to this.
Maybe the best part of Cusco is our hotel. I feel like I´m living in a fairy tale. Not only does our bathroom have a jacuzzi and heated floors, it has a crystal chandelier. The hotel is a mansion from the 1600s, with these amazing antiques, paintings, chandeliers. Our room smells like cedar. The bell boy just gave us a lesson in local history and literature. I am loving every second. Just soaking it all in.
Tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu. My heart is already overflowing with joy and gratitude. They say that at Machu Picchu your heart opens, so stay tuned for that.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good News, Bad News

The lovely Claire, who has been an invaluable support to me, creatively and emotionally, just told me that she got her dream job—hooray! And that it’s in Baltimore. Ug.

Like Anne of Green Gables, when I find a bosom friend, I want her to stay with me forever. I hold on to many of them, and I want Claire to be in that category. Unfortunately, long distance communication is not my strong suit, and I have learned that some people, in spite of how much we love them, fall away from our lives. So yes, I am thrilled that Claire has this opportunity, and yes, I am so sad that she’s moving away.

But on another level, seeing her dream come true gives me more hope in my own. I have journeyed with Claire, watched her discern what she wanted to do for work, try things that didn’t quite fit, adjust, try something else, and persevere despite setbacks. After this long road, success!  She has found a job that will use her considerable skills, where she will be valued and important. Seeing this come together for her helps me to keep believing in my own dreams, to keep trying, to keep doing the next thing.

Yet wouldn’t a writer need to be writing for their dream to come true? That’s what the inner critic asks. I suppose he has a point. With vacation, some drama, and less naps from Daniel, I have not put fingers to keyboard too often in the past few weeks. But rather than giving in to fear or self-doubt, I’m practicing breathing. I’m reminding myself what Havi says, that we can only work on one tiny corner of the garden at a time, but any work we do helps the entire garden thrive.

So, no critic, I have not written much these past two weeks, but I have seen a lawyer to write my will, made a long-feared doctor’s appointment, supported a friend in a very difficult time, and prepared for my trip to Peru. Inner critic says, “Havi’s theory is a crock. You just say that to make yourself feel better!” Man, he can be an asshole. I’ll channel Claire instead. She would tell me that I’m right on schedule. I’m working on believing her.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

10 Sweetest Things

It's been so long since I've posted about Daniel, I'm afraid he'll get a complex. Months 7 and 8 were so sweet I wanted to freeze him in time. He is adorable, interactive, and not yet mobile--a dream baby. Here are my top 10 sweetest things about him right  now:

  1. His intense hugs – when I wake him in the morning, he grabs my hair with both hands and presses his face into mine, like he wants to eat my face.
  2. When I enter his room in the morning he kicks his legs, waves his arms, wiggles in full body delight. 
  3. He takes two naps a day, and sleeps twelve hours at night. No fuss, no muss. I’m reluctant to type this for fear I will jinx it.
  4. While sitting, he rocks his torso back and forth – a seated happy dance.
  5.  He reaches his hand out with great longing toward people he loves (and lights, and his bottle.)
  6. He flashes his gummy smile, still mostly gummy, with two bottom teeth and a giant top tooth starting to poke through.
  7. He bounces and dances in his jumper for up to an hour, showing different levels of enthusiasm depending on the song. (Like his mamma, he favors something with a good beat.)
  8. He gives air kisses when I say “Kissy.”
  9. He holds his own bottle or sippy cup.
  10. He stuffs food into his own mouth with great gusto, sitting in his high chair as long as we feed him.
What's sweet in your life right now?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reclaiming St. Patrick's Day

My Irish grandparents, Pete and Dorothy Wade
Last Saturday, as I drove into the city to meet friends, I saw the telltale signs—yellow school buses, people staggering through traffic, shamrock Mardi Gras beads, kelly green shirts. I am proud to be Irish, but I didn’t think, “Great! A celebration of my heritage.” No, I thought, “Crap. There are going to be drunks everywhere.”

Now, I like a Guinness as much as anyone, but why is it that St. Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage celebrations bring out the worst of Irish culture—the annoying drunk? Maybe we just find what we look for—good or bad. So this morning I reminded myself that I can’t control what other people do or think. What I can do is choose how I want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

So I put on green, including my Grandmom’s Claddagh pin. I visited some friends, called my mom, appreciated the blooming daffodils. With my new attitude, I saw people of all colors, wearing green, completely sober, and allowed that to warm my Irish heart. Maybe tonight I’ll make Grandmom’s roast beef dinner, eat some Irish potatoes, and listen to Blackthorn. Sounds like a party to me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learn to Love Running

As Spring approaches and we all leave our hibernating dens, come visit us at 4 Broad Minds to learn how to love running.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be Your Own Valentine

If I've learned one thing over the past few years, it's that we cannot control other people. This realization, though frustrating, is also freeing. Because if I can't make anyone else do anything, I better take action to make myself happy.

Last week as I entered Trader Joe's, I stopped as I often do, to admire the flowers. And then I thought, what the hell? I'll buy myself some roses. After unpacking the groceries, I remembered I have a beautiful Waterford crystal vase that belonged to my Grandmom. I trimmed the roses, washed the vase and arranged them to my liking. They have brightened my mood every time I've seen them in the past week, which is certainly worth the $4.99 I paid for them.

Do I like my husband to buy me flowers? Of course. I love flowers. I love feeling appreciated. But knowing that I don't have to wait for him to do it is liberating. I can love myself. And I must. And when I do, I don't need anyone else to show me that I'm loved, because I know that I am.

A gorgeous, funny, smart woman I know died on Friday. She was 29 years old. Her beautiful spirit shone brightly, overflowing into those blessed enough to know her. You could feel the love she had for herself. We can't control if we have a Valentine or how that Valentine behaves, but we can do something nice for ourselves this Valentine's Day. Life is too short to wait around for someone else to make you feel loved. Go ahead and treat yourself. Be your own Valentine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Overcoming Resistance

I heard a speaker on Friday say that our internal resistance to change gets in our way more than anything else. He talked about goals and dreams and attitudes, and it was all very inspiring. But after hearing all of his great ideas about change and possibilities, I felt too overwhelmed to do anything at all. (He predicted this would happen.) 

So I drove home, ate lunch, put Daniel down for a nap and then tried to remember how I have overcome resistance in the past. My best trick is to think of the smallest possible step I can take. After a baby-induced hiatus, I wanted to get back to selling my novel. So I thought, okay, what’s the smallest possible step I can take in that direction? I decided I could just look for the list of agents I made last year. Walking up the stairs towards my office, I felt enormous resistance. Apparently, there is some biological basis for our minds wanting things to stay the same. My feet felt heavy, but I found the list. Then I looked at it, then I opened my query letter and started tinkering, and before I knew it, I had some momentum and was happily working.

The journey of a thousand miles does begin with the first step. And so often, if I can take the first step, I can take a second, third, and before I know it, I’m just walking. The speaker on Friday said you can either be in the game or at the game, and I want to be in it. As painful, scary or embarrassing as it is to try sometimes, I’d rather be wiping out in the water than sitting on the beach watching.

How do you overcome resistance?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top 10 Posts

To celebrate making it to 100 blog posts, I present my top ten favorite posts so far.

If you have a favorite, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, etc by clicking one of the (nearly invisible) icons below. Perhaps by my 200th post, I will have figured out how to make more noticeable share buttons. A girl can dream...


10.Swimming Lessons (self-explanatory title)

9. Nalu (the puppy)

8. Over the Rainbow (the baby)

7. Yoga for the Mind (poetry)

6. If You Know How to Worry (using worrying to your advantage)

5. I Wrote a Book (writing)

4. Another Little Rincon of My Heart (surf adventures)

3. My Mexico (A Mexican wedding with my son)

2. Grandmom (love, gratitude and grief)

And my all-time favorite, about my interaction with childhood crush from NKOTB:

1. Donnie Wahlberg

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Year Without Resolutions?

January 2. Time for New Year’s Resolutions, right? Maybe not. The past few years I have made very simple resolutions. One year it was to have more fun; one year to dance more; one year to become more active. As I contemplated goals and resolutions for 2012, I thought I might try something different this year, inspired by two blogs I love.

On Zen Habits, Leo writes about giving up goals. This idea makes me uneasy. Isn’t conventional wisdom that unless you have a goal, you will not achieve it? Leo claims you can achieve just as much, maybe more, without goals.

In that spirit, I thought rather than making goals for 2012, I could use a process I found on another blog I love, The Fluent Self. Havi has a practice of saying hello to each month. I used some of her prompts to say hello to the last few months of 2011, and found it so helpful, I’m doing it for 2012 too. I like it because it’s a way of having intentions about a month (or year) while staying open to what comes.

Here are some prompts to consider if you want to say hello to 2012.

How I would like to describe 2012

How I would like to remember 2012

What I am looking forward to

What I am feeling anxious about

What I would like to give 2012

What I would like to receive

And because I can't quite give up resolutions, I have still made one very simple one, which is to focus on staying in the moment more.

How do you approach a new year?