Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Thankful for These 9 Things in My Life

 Giving Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My family is pretty casual, so we don't usually hold hands around the table and one-by-one express what we are thankful for. The members of my family typically hold their cards close to their chest. It doesn't mean we don't have feelings, we just don't share them as openly as some other folks might.  I do feel I have MANY things to be thankful for this year. Here they are for all the world to see:

1. My kids! Everyday, I hug and hold my babies tight. In the morning and between the time I get home from work and the time they go to bed, which sadly is only about a 3 hour time span, they are kissed, and told "I love you several times". I am incredibly grateful for them, and know they mean it when they repeatedly tell me, "I love you too, Mom."

2. My husband works his butt off. He deals with some pretty crazy stuff, risking his own personal safety almost daily for his family. He can be moody, and isn't the best communicator. But he is one solid dude. He's thoughtful, responsible and has his heart in the right place.

3. I have a roof over my head. I complain all the time how our house is as underwater as the Lost City of Atlantis but you know, nobody is making us stay here. There are people who have lost their homes and are living in their cars or shelters, and don't have any other options or anyone they can count on to help them out for a while. I know if anything happened, I have family who would support us in the short term. We'd never be out on the street.

4. I can put food on our table. I can buy my family fresh fruits and vegetables. I can choose to buy organic. My kids never go hungry. My heart breaks when I think of those who have to tell their hungry family they have nothing to eat, or that they must "find" food.

5. I am surrounded by wonderful friends. Some are lifelong, some are new. Most are IRL (in real life) some are social media friends that I share common interests with such as blogging or running. I KNOW that if I have something going on in my life, I have people to turn to or talk to. It horrifies me when I hear of suicides, and friends and acquaintances have no idea that anything was wrong. It's of no fault of the friends. What bothers me about it is that the person who killed themselves at some point felt they had no one to turn to, no one to listen, no one to trust. They were so desperate that the best option they had was death. Even as a sullen teenager suffering what I thought at the time were devastating problems, I vowed NEVER to EVER kill myself, that there would always be a better way, another option, a way of starting over. I love my friends.

6. I have a job. Sure, my commute SUCKS. But would I like to drive 50+ miles each day for this job, or sit at home and have no money and nowhere to go? I work for great people who treat me incredibly well. I work in a pretty cool industry in the heart of where it's all happening. Nationwide, the unemployment rate is much higher than it is in my area. Sure, our cost of living is through the roof, but at least there are jobs.

7. My PARENTS. Of course, without them I wouldn't be here. But they've done a lot for me over the years. They supported my education, stressed the importance of work ethic and responsibility in me from a young age. They adore my kids. My mom worked for 30 years, full time, and finally retired. Only to be roped in to watching my kids for me for the last 5 years so I could work, with only one break for nearly year when I was unemployed. I know its hard on her, its a tough job being with these two crazy boys 3x per week.I also know this can't go on for much longer. She's not getting any younger and I know she'd much rather be enjoying her leisure time in another way. We are very fortunate to have had her help for this long.

8. My "Uncle" who has survived a terrible form of cancer. He went from a healthy, strong, vivacious retiree who loves to vacation in Hawaii and Mexico to having surgery and being in a coma, and has taken over a year to regain his strength. He is back, mostly as good as new and is now going to undergo some type of experimental surgery and further treatment to keep him around longer. He and his wife have never been anything less than generous, giving and loving to our family and our prayers will be with them in the coming months.

9. Lastly, I am grateful for new beginnings. I found out tonight my sister is ENGAGED! I am so excited for them to start their lives together, and I hope it means nieces and nephews for me and cousins for my boys!  (Not to rush them, of course).

Tomorrow we are going to my parents. BIG thanks to them for hosting.  I am looking forward to spending time with those I love, including my cool Grandpa, and enjoying a delicious meal. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Red Kale Pomegranate Smoothie

It's a rainy Sunday at our house. My kitchen is a total disaster and I am procrastinating. I just made this fabulous smoothie, with the tart flavor of pomegranate balanced with the sweetness of a ripe banana.

I do realize my pictures suck. Working on it.

I came back from squeezing in a 3.5 mile run before it started raining again, and wanted to have something healthy. Let me preface this by saying we took the kids to the drive-in to see Puss n' Boots last night and my dinner consisted of massive amounts of homemade popcorn seasoned with salt and olive oil accompanied by many M&M's and a large plastic cup of red wine. Yeah.

So back to my healthy smoothie. I bought this pomegranate at the Farmer's Market and I wasn't sure what to do with it. I always do that. I buy them because they are in season and they look so good, and then I end up just snacking on them plain. Not that there is anything wrong with that...but I was hoping to be more creative since I have time on my hands. I'm procrastinating from cleaning my kitchen (and folding laundry too), remember?

You will need:
1/2 pomegranate, seeded
1/2 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup almond milk
1 small banana flavored yogurt
1/2 ripe banana
3 red kale leaves, chopped in small pieces and tough bottom stems discarded
a blender - slotted spoon - strainer

Well this turned out to be a little time consuming but I am happy with the finished product. Start by putting on an apron, dark shirt, or other shirt that you don't mind getting stained. Cut the pomegranate in half, and gently peeled off the larger hunks from the seeds. Then, I got a bowl of water and submerged the pomegranate and continued to "detail" the removal of the outer peeling. I learned this from an episode of Martha Stewart years ago. The yummy pom seeds will sink, and the yucky white stuff that you are removing will rise to the top. It's not a perfect system, but it does make it a bit easier because the water keeps the white stuff from sticking to your hands.

Then I took a slotted spoon and removed all the white stuff from the top. Gosh, I am sorry I keep staying "white stuff' but I don't know what the technical term is. I poured out the water and I was left with this:

Beautiful right? So I added the ice, almond milk and water to my blender. Next I added the pom seeds, the kale leaves and banana. Whirrrrr.....

I will share with you my trial and error. I am used to adding water to my kale smoothies because it is usually required to blend up the kale leaves easily and prevent the "chunk" factor. I think the pom seeds contained enough water that extra H20 may not have been necessary. When I poured the smoothie it was more like a juice. Which would have been fine, but I like a little more substance. Plus, I knew I needed a protein source anyway. Back to the blender with the yogurt I had in the fridge:

I also realized that the edible seed portion attached to the fruit - which is an excellent source of fiber, by the way - did not grind up in the Bullet. Great if you want fiber, and annoying if you are trying to drink something and keep getting little bits in your mouth. After blending in the yogurt, I poured the smoothie through a strainer and into a glass. Much better!

This was so yummy! Definitely worth it if you have a little extra time on your hands. You can also buy the pom seeds without having to do the work, but they are pricey. I'm sure pomegranate juice would also be a good short cut, with less fiber. 

Pomegranate is an excellent source of vitamin C and B5 as well as antioxidants. Kale is an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B and betacarotene. (source: Wikipedia).


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bring On The Holidays!

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 Aaah, the days of summer have officially passed.  The cold weather has arrived and is here to stay...which means, no more coming down to breakfast in short sleeve pj's to eat fruit and read my email with the sun streaming through the window. No, when the weather turns, it means the holidays are nearly upon us and my mindset totally changes. There are so many things that I look forward to when Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon. After the Halloween decorations are packed away, I start getting really....nesty. Nesty to me means, wanting to be home all the time. Wanting to be warm. Wanting to eat delicious, heavier foods in the company of my family and loved ones. How do I settle in at this time of year?

First of all, I have to admit I am a sucker for the RED CUP. What red cup might you ask? The red cup which may contain an eggnog latte, or a white chocolate peppermint mocha depending on my mood. You know the one...

That's right. Starbucks has totally made me a sucker.
I am not one of those people that is cold all the time. But around this time of year, I find myself starting my day and ending my evening with a nice fire. We have a gas fireplace, which doesn't have the nice smell or give off quite the heat of a wood-burning fire. It sure does have a lot of the charm, and less of the mess. I just want to sink into my couch and never get up. Wouldn't you??

During the winter, I get super excited about cooking for the holidays. Fortunately my family helps out a lot. We don't always have the same thing every year, but there are things I surely look forward to consuming on either Thanksgiving or Christmas. My favorites are: Honeybaked Ham, Mom's mashed potatoes, Mom's yams, my green bean casserole (no creamed soups are harmed during the making of this casserole) and my Grandpa's tamales. The years we have tamales are fun. Because they are so much work, we all get together to help. And, we enjoy them like we won't have them again any time soon, because, well...we won't. 

They look so harmless, but so bloody time-consuming
Beyond special holiday meals, I just get really into cooking and domesticity in general. Out comes the crock pot this time of year! I love making hearty stews, soups and do a lot of baking. We deck out our house in lights outside, and the inside of our home is a winter wonderland.

Probably the thing I love the MOST about the holidays is the extra time off I get to spend with my family, especially with my boys. They are growing up so incredibly fast, and nothing makes me happier than enjoying lazy, cozy days with them. 

They look so innocent but they are a handful!
My kids have 4 full days off in November, and a slew of minimum days. December has about 2 weeks off from school...and in between all that this year we are doing a 3 day trip to Disneyland. Have you ever been to Disneyland around Christmas time? My family just loves all the decorations, and they have the best parade. We realize we are fortunate to live in the same state and its more convenient for us to go than for others. It's still a big trip for us but with kids our age, its so worth seeing their eyes light up. 

The Castle At Night

What holiday comforts do you enjoy most? Do you get really into it and go all out with decorations and cooking or are you ho hum about it and content to enjoy those things in other people's homes where you don't have to unpack, put up, and take down decorations?

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

If Someone Offers Help, Say Yes!

My husband has always been incredibly supportive of my interest in fitness. While he's not always on board with my adventures in healthy cooking (he draws the line at meatless meals) he will never criticize me for wanting to run or work out. Even though it seems he's never home, when he is he will watch the kids if I want to work out. I'll admit, if he is actually home in the evening I typically will forgo working out so we can have family time. But if he's home in the morning and I know he's had a decent amount of sleep, I will leave the kids behind and get my sweat on. At the very least, he never complains.

Dreadmill. Better than Nada.
I made a sacrifice this week. Driving my son to school and walking to class with him is my favorite part of the day. However, my husband's schedule had him home at a reasonable hour the last few nights. Usually I let him sleep in and try to get my kids ready in the morning as quietly as possible so as not to disturb him. But this week I think I am feeling the after-effects of the Halloween candy and just felt I needed to step things up a notch. He offered to drive Monkey to school the last two mornings and I jumped at the chance to use the treadmill that is not quite a lovely decorative feature in our bedroom. Earlier in the week, Monkey stayed home sick from school so I took advantage of the time I would normally spend driving him and went for an icy-cold outdoor run.  That means, my friends, I exercised 3 times this week before work. And I plan to fit in a work out tomorrow morning too! I feel happy about it and its just what I needed...but realistically I know this won't happen every week.

On Tomorrow's Agenda
My husband has offered several times, even during weeks where he wasn't home early, to drive Monkey to school once a week so that I can go for a run. I usually feel guilty and just let him sleep. It doesn't help that Monkey always tells me he'd rather that I take him to school. But I'm starting to think I should take him up on the offer. Maybe on a Tuesday or Wednesday, since I typically work out Friday through Sunday. He wouldn't be offering if he really didn't want to do it.

Do you ever have a hard time accepting help? I remember being like this after my babies were born too. I have a natural tendency to try to "do it all."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Am I Still Eating Halloween Candy?

Why Am I Still Eating Halloween Candy??
There is no reasonable answer to this question. I consider myself pretty healthy and in good shape. I care about the health of my family. So when Halloween was over, I took their candy to my office so they wouldn't eat it.

Where I proceeded to participate in a gorge-fest with my co-workers that still hasn't ended.

Not like I'm shoveling candy in my face all day long, its more like a couple pieces a day. But that is definitely more than the norm.

To be honest, I didn't even bring all of my kids candy to work. I still have quite a bit at home. It's too much to just toss out, I don't want to be wasteful.

There Is A Solution To All The Madness!
Fortunately, Cool Mom Picks compiled this great list of places to donate the goods. While I'm deciding where to donate my candy I have several days of fitness ahead of me. Today I went on a run before work and it was 40*! I must admit the cold was invigorating but, brr, it sure does take a lot of motivation to take that first step out the door. Also, one of my Running Mama friends turned me on to something called the Venus Index work out, which I had never heard of before. It looks quite intense, but I need it. The holidays are coming and you know I like to eat!

Make good choices! Or shall I say, Make better choices than me! Have a great week. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leaving the Pediatrician with a Heavy Heart

My Buddha is turning 3 next week. I can't believe how the time has flown by. It seemed like only yesterday that he was in my arms in the hospital. I didn't want to leave there, I even stayed an extra day. So we could be together, just me and him...spending our days cuddling. It was the BEST.

So sweet, peaceful and precious
He had his check up and we found out he's in the 75th percentile for height, which has been the case for him all along. And 95th percentile for weight! He is quite a solid ton of bricks, I hardly ever pick him up anymore.

Even though he's only going to be 3, we have felt he's been a little behind on his speech development. Everyone we know says not to worry, so-and-so didn't speak until they were 4 and they are fine. Well, we've been patient for the last year, and he's improved a lot, especially since he's been in preschool. His pediatrician recommended we go to the school district, as they provide speech therapy for free after 3 and we can also get his hearing checked.

During the appointment, Buddha did not really engage much with the Dr. Toward the end, Dr. A dropped these very HEAVY WORDS. "I don't want to alarm you..."

Oh God, what now?

"I am concerned about his speech patterns. He seems to make some very repetitive sounds, that are not really words. And the words he does use are almost like pre-canned phrases that he has heard on TV. Also, he hasn't really made any eye contact or shown interest in me since I have walked in the room."

Ugh. He referred me to a developmental pediatrician, one that charges steep hourly fees and doesn't take insurance. He is concerned that he is showing signs of Autism spectrum disorder, and says to take him in as soon as possible for evaluation.

It could be nothing. OR, it could really be something. I hate the unknown.

Me and My Sweet Buddha

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Boo! Halloween!

I wasn't as excited about Halloween this year because it was on a Monday. But, I did get to leave work at 3:45, so that I could beat some traffic. So immediately my night started off on a good note. My green zombie couldn't wait to get his costume on. Po, on the other hand kept saying, "I don't want Kung Fu Panda." I was starting to wonder if we would ever be able to get him dressed, since we finally just let him hang out and eat dinner in his pull up. Eventually, after some coaxing from Chip, he was dressed and happy.

We had an awesome Halloween this year. Being on a school night, I knew it would be more mellow since usually our neighborhood is off the chain. We did go through 2 Costco size bags of candy, but we were also very generous.

We got Costco Take n' Bake pizza (quite a good value, 2 very large pizzas for $16!), had wine, some chicken wings, and we were good to go! My parents and Mother-in-Law came over to join us. As soon as the sun went down we were off to hit the neighborhood. My cuties had full baskets of candy, and had a GREAT night.

Buddha outlasted Monkey. Monkey was done trick or treating, and Chip took him home. Buddha and I hit 2 more courts and another side street before going home 8:45 pm. Getting the kids to sleep was another story. They were so wound up, laughing, chasing each other around and having a good ol' time. I think they finally fell asleep at 10 pm, after my repeated threats of how miserable they were going to be getting up this morning.  Oddly enough, they were both fine and popped right out of bed and the usual time and made it to school with no problems. Success!