Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happiness Project I: Energy to Spare

well, not exactly.

You might remember at the beginning of this month I started a bit of a Happiness Project, as inspired by Gretchen Rubin's best selling book of the same title. My first month's undertaking mirrored her own first month, in that it was a quest to find more energy, more get-up-and-go in my life. I resolved to turn off the TV by 10pm every night and get into bed, to turn the light out by 11pm, to get that elusive and mythical 8 full hours of sleep a night, hoping it would mean I'd be more refreshed, rested and ready to take on the world each day. Oh, the optimism!! I also promised myself I'd move more during the day--more time at the gym, more outside time with Ethan (which gratefully coincided with the end of the Seattle-esque downpours that plagued our areas daily).

So how did it all go? Welllll....

I am one of those people who starts out of the gate strong. The first couple of weeks, I was infinitely aware of the clock in the evenings. "9:45?! Almost time for bed!! Woo-hoo! I'm going to be so freaking rested tomorrow, it's not even funny! Watch out world! I'm gonna git you!" In bed at 10pm, reading my book, glancing at the clock to be sure I was done reading by 11pm. You know, for the beauty sleep. Off into dreamland by 11:01 and up at 7am. "Mmmrppphhh, can I sleep for 10 more minutes? Maybe it's 8 hours AND 10 minutes that's the perfect amount of sleep for me."

By mid-way through the month, I'd catch myself losing track of time in the evenings, suddenly realizing I was 15 minutes into the Marriage Ref, which comes on (even though it never, ever should, at any time) at 10pm. Ooops! Have to go to bed! And off I went. But then, 40 minutes of reading wasn't really enough (note to self: you are a giant nerd, but that's okay). So I'd be up reading until 11:20-ish. And up at 7am.

Strangely, I found that 7.5 hours of sleep far more refreshing than the 8+ I'd been getting in the earlier weeks of the project. So, lucky me! I now let myself watch a few minutes of whatever is on TV at 10pm. Let's face it, but 15 minutes in, I'm generally disgusted by the programming anyway, and am now happy in the habit to just get up and go to bed rather than cluck my teeth at the TV and kvetch about how our popular culture is swirling the drain.

While it's got nothing really to do with energy, I also started a gratitude journal this month and that has gone a long way into increasing my overall happiness. There is something about consciously ending my evening by writing down 3-4 specific things that made me smile or moved me during that day that truly brings the idea of living mindfully into perspective. Over the course of my day, an interaction with Ethan, Husband or a friend, or something I see around me in the world will spark the thought, "that is so going in my gratitude journal tonight," and I will be consciously aware that in that moment, I am happy. If you ask most people, "Are you happy?" they will likely shrug and say, "Sure, sure I'm happy." But it's a really lovely thing to have a moment of your day whisper to you, "you are so happy right now." Keeping the journal has done that for me. And I'm grateful.

As for moving more? Well, that's been a mixed bag, but everything has to be a work in progress, right? How authentic would it be if I went from flirting dangerously with couch potatohood to acting like a coked-up chihuahua? I will say this; I made a LOT of plans to move more. Some of the plans worked out, and others didn't. The intention to take spinning classes sort of floated down and came to rest on the "ideas I've had that I did not follow through on" pile in the back of my mind. I might get there yet, but thus far...not so much. BUT, I have spent a lot more time outside with Ethan, playing with Ethan, being active with Ethan. So I might spend more of my mornings randomly surfing the net and drooling blogging, but the couch has been finding itself far lonelier than it's ever been before in the afternoons. And that is a pretty good start, I guess.

I do think the month of focusing on my energy level and using that as a jumping off point for gathering more happiness into my life was successful. After years of disjointed sleep (thank you, child who didn't sleep for the first 2 years of life!), I have finally discovered that 7.5 is pretty much my happy number. It's nice to know that. I have found that inertia is the biggest barrier to activity--whether the activity is just getting up off the freaking couch at night so I can go fall into bed, or getting off the freaking couch at 4pm to go kick the soccer ball outside with Ethan--once I am actually UP, the energy just sort of starts to flow. I'm still exhausted at the end of the day, but it's the exhaustion of having done something with my day.

This month, my focus is going to be on nutrition. For years I have struggled with my eating habits and this has led to negative body image issues that I obsess over through self-deprecating jokes at my own expense at a pretty constant clip (please ask anyone I've spent more than 10 minutes with how I feel about my body--I'm fairly certain they'll know). I've decided that in order to be truly happy, I have to find my way through that negativity to a place of peace with my body, and that's only going to happen if I can find a way to treat my body more kindly, through good, clean nutrition and eating habits. I wrote about this at much greater lengths here yesterday.

This month will be a lot harder because so much of it's going to be happening inside my head and requires more thoughtful consideration than "well, it's 10pm! I'm off to bed!" In order to make this month's goal, I am going to be cooking our meals at least 5 nights a week and Ethan's going to be helping me. This will accomplish our doing something active together AND making more healthful choices for meals in the coming months. We've already started and rather than being an arduous task, I'm finding cooking with Ethan to be one of the most fun and rewarding things I've done as a parent thus far. And that, my friends, is pure happiness!

Wishing you all happiness & peace,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Matzo Ball Madness...

Tonight is the first night of Passover (which I might not really remember if Ethan didn't attend a Jewish preschool; interesting how our children are often our way back to our religious identities--if we had any to begin with). Being such, and since my child has lost all ability to play independently and insists on being entertained every minute of the day during which he is not asleep (mind you, he'd rather be entertained by ANYone other than me, but if I'm the only schmoe available, I'll do), I decided we would make dinner together.

I've actually decided that Ethan will be helping me make dinner most nights from here forth until such time as he catches on to my scheme, realizes that making dinner isn't quite as much fun as crashing Thomas the Train into a ravine (off the side of the train table), and ditches our culinary together-time. But right now, the kid insists that our afternoons be a three-ring circus of activity and one of those rings has to consist of mama making dinner, so he's going to help or he's going to rediscover the joys of independent play.

We actually had lots of fun today.

The vegetable chopper yarmulke. Worn by Jewish chefs all over the world.

Actually, it's my Vidalia Chop Wizard that I totally got in the "As Seen on TV" aisle at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Laugh all you want, suckers, but that baby chops the hell out of vegetables in no time. And is easy enough for a preschooler to use! Now how much would you pay?!! But wait, there's more....

A child with a vegetable peeler! He did an awesome job until he turned around and tried to "peel" the top of our dining room chair. Redirect!

Uh-oh! Don't worry, not a vegetable peeler injury, just dropped the carrot. On the floor. this a good time to introduce him to the 5-second rule? Maybe not.

Also? This post could be called, "Why Sarah is a Bad Jew," because my house is supposed to be completely clean of all bread product, but in this picture, I can see about 6 violations of that rule. And that's not even counting the butcher block you can't see that's got a loaf of bread, a bag of pita and a 6-pack of bagels on it. Oh, the humanity! The yeast-leavened humanity!

Our perfectly chopped carrots (and celery and onion)! Vidalia Chop Wizard, people! Now how much would you pay?! (as an aside, I'm not a paid spokes-blogger--I just dig this thing. Because that's my life--reduced to glee over perfectly chopped carrots!)(As another aside about what my life has been "reduced" to, the other night, Ethan asked Husband why mommy stayed home and daddy went to work. After listening intently to Husband's explanation, Ethan responded with, "I think Mommy should go to work for awhile and you should stay home, Daddy." So that? Was awesome.)

All of our veggies went into the pot of chicken stock; so easy to make--throw a bunch of chicken pieces (this time I just got whole breast and de-skinned it because the fat content goes up by eleventy billion percent with the skin on) into a pot of water (I use a little bit of premade chicken broth with it because I want it superduper chicken-y). Once the chicken is cooked, I take it out, shred the hell out of it with a fork and toss it back in with the veggies. Yes, folks, I am telling you, step by step, how to make the EASIEST thing in the world. Because maybe someone out there doesn't know how to make chicken soup? Maybe?

Then, it was time to make the matzo balls...

I'm not sure how much more work it would have been to grind up my own matzos for the balls, but meh. Besides, if I'm not going to drink their "wine," I feel like I should throw Manischewitz a bone and buy their matzo ball mix.

mixing the eggs and the oil together (and wondering when the pile of cereal boxes is going to fall on him and bury him alive on the kitchen floor. Housekeeping WIN! For the record, those boxes aren't always there and aren't always stacked like that--it was my attempt to make enough room for both Ethan and me at the counter).



they're done!


and all kinds of deliciousness in a bowl.

My finicky, "but I don't like ________ (fill in...well, ANYthing that's not "noodles") child actually had TWO bowls of soup and two matzo balls. And a bagel with peanut butter. Yeah, that's right. Because we're wicked good at being Jewish.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spit Happens

The boy. He is spitting. A lot.

Remember when babies learn how to blow raspberries and it's the cutest freaking thing ever and you encourage them to keep doing it precisely because it's the cutest freaking thing ever and then you pick them up and blow raspberries on their little baby bellies and they giggle and blow more raspberries and OHMYFREAKINGGOD, THE CUTE!!!!!!

Remember that? Yeah. Good times.

It is, however, slightly less "cutest freaking thing ever" when that little baby has turned into a two-months-shy of 4 year old and has suddenly decided that blowing big juicy, slobbery raspberries is the COOLEST thing ever.

I know. Because that kid is mine. My kid. Is a spitter. Sigh.

It started a couple weeks ago; at first, he was just blowing raspberries while he played, or using them as punctuation at the end sentences. Example, "Dinner was good. Can I go play now? pppppbbbbbbttttttt." At first, Husband and I chuckled or smiled. He's a cute kid. He does cute things.

But then? The raspberries started coming fast and furious, and inappropriately, in peoples' faces, young and old(er) alike. His friends? He'll blow raspberries on them. His teachers? Yup. Husband & me? Right-o. Raspberries all around. And during cold & flu season. So, that makes him a BIG hit with the other parents. We're so proud.

Two days ago, his teacher pulled me aside to let me know that his friends are starting to get fed up with the spitting, and that she had to excuse him from several activities because of the spitting. And my stomach sank. My kid? My sweet, adorable, loving, amazing child is *that* kid. The one that, right now, no one wants to play with. Because he blows icky, germy, wet raspberries in their faces and laughs. One of my friend's little girl is sick right now and I can't help but wonder---did MY kid raspberry her kid's immune system into submission? Oy.

We've talked to him. We've talked about alternatives to spitting. We've talked about using words if we're frustrated and other ways to try to be funny when we want to make our friends laugh (because spitting is so NOT funny, kid!!!). We've done time-outs. We've cancelled playdates, because if you're just going to spit on your friends, we're not going to ask them to come over for that. There have been floods of tears. There have been apologies. There have been promises that the spitting is done.

And then there has been more spitting.

What is a mother to do?! I really want my kid to be a free spirit and express himself in a fun and playful way. I struggle with the fear of breaking his spirit. But the spitting has to stop because it totally gets in people's space, they don't like it (again, with the omg, he's *that* kid) and frankly, it's just gross. He can't really be a free spirit at the expense of other peoples' personal space and health, right?! That's what I thought. But the things that always work to redirect his iffy behavior just aren't working.

So I ask you, WHAT do I do next? How do we make our home a spit-free environment so we can go back to having play dates, and Mama's not biting her nails down the quick every day at preschool pick-up. Help me, interwebs!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Things

The kid digs spring.

First, we get to make orange juice. From all the orange trees our friends have. They are brought by the bag-full when friends come to dinner, or they are are left on our front porch by our 5-year old next door neighbor. They set up residence on the buffet in our dining room until it's time for them to meet the squisher.

You know, that thing:

And after squishing about 50 million oranges (don't worry; I did not use one of those soaking lentils in the juice)....

We get just enough juice for Ethan and me to share a glass. Refreshing!

So that is fun!

And then there is that whole "everything is blooming" thing.

Remember the beans Ethan planted a few weeks ago with our neighbors, that the gardener threw away? Yeah, well, turns out he didn't actually throw it away (sorry, gardener guy for hurling unfounded accusations your way). Rather, it got knocked over and buried in the bushes in our front yard. And then we found it, brushed it off and put it back on the porch. And it's sprouting! We're gonna have beans, people! Beans!

Recently, I joined a group on Facebook called No Time For Flashcards and I'm all crafty-artsy now (Ha!). The other day they had this activity on the Facebook page, and I decided to rush out to Target to buy the accoutrements to make it a backyard activity for our after school playdate.

Oh, but first, we made bagel bird feeders. I forgot to take pictures of the finished product (I wonder why I never became a photojournalist?!) If you look closely, you can see that there's a birdseed covered bagel hanging out in that blue bowl. After smearing it in peanut butter and rolling it around in seeds, I slid a piece of yarn through the hole and then hung it on a tree. Which was awesome, except the first bird that tried to dine on it knocked it to the ground, and Voila! Squirrel buffet. And nothing makes me happier than making squirrels fat and happy in my back yard.

Here's the spring sensory tub, with some awesome Mom-shaped shadows. I underestimated how much of a hit this would be, and that's great, but I feel badly for the hungry birds that are lurking in our trees, salivating (do birds salivate?) while Ethan plays with this giant tray (read: new & clean cat litter box--awesome craft tray!) of bird food. Bird food that is now laced with shiny, not-bird friendly sequins. So, you know, the neighborhood birds are really happy with me. Crappy bagel bird-feeders and trays of food that will kill them if they eat it. I'm GrizzlyfuckingAdams here, people.

And then there's soccer, which makes my kid happy like this:

And realize when I say "soccer," I mean throwing a white and black ball around to no place in particular, kicking it in no particular direction and then falling down on the ground, laughing. You know, like Beckham.

So spring is here, folks. And it's all good.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Extreme Table Makeover

Last week at this time, I was entertaining guests & my major flub was the fact that the preschool set had to stand around a small IKEA table and a coffee table to eat their dinners because I did have enough chairs to seat them all. Because I am awesome.

The next day, Husband, Ethan and I trekked to our local IKEA & purchased a 2nd set of chairs for our kid table. And because Ethan's existing table had been used more for random "what color crayon is this?" experimentation than really any other activity, I headed to Lowe's and picked up a couple sample-sized cans of paint to cover over the scribbles. Aside from the no-seating-issue, asking friends' kids to eat off of a table that looks like a place where Crayolas go to die is kind of, erm, uncool. And I want to be a good entertainer, you know? Or at least better than "we are NEVER going back there again."

Today, in the sun and the gorgeous warm weather, Ethan and I cracked open the paint cans, gave them a stir and set to work. He is surprisingly handy with a paintbrush. If we had been painting our backyard.

The before, which I clearly almost forgot to document. And this blue? I want to paint a room this color, move into it, and never leave.

Ethan attempting to open the can of yellow paint for the chairs. Fortunately after snapping this photo, Husband took the can away from him and opened it for him, lest we end up with a yellow painted Ethan.

Clearly this picture and the next show that one need not actually look at what one is painting while one is painting it...

Okay, now he means business....

And the final result....

Okay, preschool-aged guests. Bring it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Climbing the Walls...

Alternate title: Wall Yoga (not to be confused with dump-truck yoga)

A week or so ago, before it stopped raining and became all gorgeous and sunny and warm and bloom-y outside (so before mama sprouted a whole new set of seasonal allergies that have weighed her head down like a sandbag filled with concrete), Ethan was getting a bit antsy. So he did what any self-respecting, gravity-defying preschooler would do; he set about climbing the walls.

Naturally he was very pleased with himself. And why not? If I attempted that, I am fairly certain I would be spending an hour a week for the rest of my life at a chiropractor's office.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sowing the Seeds...

A couple of Saturdays ago, while I was shivering the flu out of my system in bed, Ethan spent some time with our neighbors, planting seeds in little dixie cups. He returned home proudly carrying his dixie cup in front of him, chattering about how soon it was going to sprout and make a watermelon. Oh, the miracle of life! I could see the gleam in his eye as he thought of the juicy deliciousness that was going to spring forth from this teeny tiny cup...someday. We set the dixie cup on the front porch, and waved goodbye and said "hello" to it every time we passed for several days, checking for signs of watermelony goodness.

But then, there was the gardener. Our gardener, not knowing what was in dixie cup, took it for trash and---are you ready for this?---threw out the watermelon seeds. Oh my. This produced a fall-down-on-the-ground weepfest the likes of which I can't recall ever having seen before. Not a tantrum. Just utter sadness and loss and tears. "But I miss my seeeeeeeds," Ethan wailed. My heart just broke. Over seeds, people. We are a mushy, fragile bunch around here these days.

So today, the first day of pure sun and 70's in our 'hood, I whipped out the jogging stroller and we trekked to Target (oh, Target, your less than a mile proximity to my home makes my heart sing. Yeah, that's what I said) to get seeds, potting soil and Dixie cups. Hells if I was going to let that gardener take away my child's dream of being a watermelon farmer, y'all!

After we gathered our supplies (and stopped at our neighborhood's rip-off of PinkBerry for a fro-yo on the way home), we set up shop on the back porch and agricultural mayhem ensued. Well, sort of.

Organic potting soil, dixie cups and three kinds of seeds.

Cucumbers, beans & watermelon. By Burpee. Love that name. Burpee. Makes me giggle. Because I'm a 12 year old boy, apparently.

Ethan chose to plant the cucumbers first because he is averaging about one whole cucumber a day right now in his eating habits. Give this child a cucumber and a cup of ranch dressing, and he will eat all day.

"Gently" patting the seeds down. Or, more likely mashing them into oblivion, ensuring that they never see the light of day.

I am king of the cucumber seeds!!! By the way, the "I dig dirt" shirt he's wearing is a total coincidence.

bean seeds in my little bean's hand

contemplating the beanness of the seeds.

probably sharing some really fascinating 'bean' facts with me.

I labeled them

and here is where I probably drowned them.