Mother’s Day

Well, I survived.

I did my best to not dwell on my first Mother’s Day without my mom.  I stayed focused on other things.  The kids.  Studying.  Our Whole30.  Who knew eating ‘clean’ could be such a blessing during this really difficult time!  I guess because it’s so new, it still takes a lot of planning and reading and shopping and chopping.  It leaves little time for moping.  Or dwelling.  Or melancholy.

The other (obvious) thing – mom is in a much better place.  She is Peggy again.  Or Dorris.  I guess it depends on who she is with up in heaven.  If she spent her Mother’s Day with her mom – she was Dorris again.  If she were with Daddy and the little baby that died at 7 days old – she was Peggy.  Either way – she was whole again.  Her mind was working.  Her thoughts and memories were opened and available for her to enjoy.

Last year on Mother’s Day weekend we were in Dallas with mom in the hospital.  They’d found that three foot blood clot in her leg and needed to put the filter in so as it broke up, pieces wouldn’t enter her heart or lungs.  She had no idea, but she was a STUD!  In on Friday evening and back to rehab on Sunday night.  Physically, she was strong.  I was such a drill sergeant.

But it didn’t keep me from missing her.  And more than that – this haunting feeling that I was forgetting something all week prior.  I “knew” I didn’t have to buy a gift or a card or mail anything or bake anything or plan anything…but I “felt” like I did.  I mean, for the past 50 years I’ve made something.  Done something.  Celebrated her.

Mom & Me, PhoenixNo matter how bizarre our relationship was – Mother’s Day was always Mother’s Day.  I appreciated her being my mom.  I always wanted that traditional mother/daughter love.  I always wanted her to feel – and show – that overwhelming emotion that mothers have for their daughters (not all daughters, I get that, but my ideals from books and movies and around my friend’s dinner tables) for me.  And, on Mother’s Day, we could always pretend. Make a good show of it.

I bought the card.  I worried over the perfect gift.  I bought flowers I couldn’t afford.  I made meals and phone calls and drove miles and miles.  And she beamed.  Mom loved to be celebrated.  She loved to be the center of attention.  And she appreciated me when I got it right – or almost right.  Mother’s Day (and Christmas and her birthday) were days that she adored me.  She was proud of me.  She told people she was proud of me.  She ‘showed me off’ at restaurants and during phone calls with her family.  We took pictures with our arms around each other.

I missed that on Sunday.

My kids made me cards and bought me gifts and drew pictures (and yes, I know they are probably too old for that – but they know I love it when they handmake something for me!!) and gave me complete control of the tv remote.  They cleaned their rooms.  They asked what they could do to help me at dinnertime.  They didn’t fight or spat or push each other’s buttons.

I don’t think the kids realized that I was sad.  I don’t think they thought about me missing mom on Mother’s Day – because they knew her after Alzheimer’s.  And why on Earth would I tell them about all the years I poured myself into Mother’s Day for her – but really probably for me?  I guess seeing it typed out, it was selfish behavior.  Oh, but how I loved those special days where it felt like I was a good daughter.  The right kind of daughter.

Anyway, I survived my first Mother’s Day without mom.  Truth is – she was with me.  She always is.  I am her.  Not all of her.  Not even the best or worst of her.  But I hear it in my phrasing.  I know it when I fight for something I believe in.  As I shop the sale racks first and put on my sensible shoes and enjoy my morning coffee.  Like they say….

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!”

 

Whole 30: Day 12, surrounded by pancakes!

Every day I am surprised by how much easier it has been for me to stay on my Whole 30 journey without faltering.  Yesterday, I was wondering where exactly I got a “W30″ superhero cape!

And then you get invited to a cheer team breakfast before the Saturday Stunt Clinic.

HMS Cheer Squad breakfast

 

We planned ahead.  We knew what we were going to have before we even walked into the restaurant.  We ate before we left.  Got our ‘protein on’, if you will!  We sat, we ordered, we knew and accepted that everyone else would be having something we might envy.  We were feeling pretty confident.

Our cheer coach sat beside me and asked about the program when she heard Peanut ask me what she could have.  I was proud to tell her.  I was proud of me and wishing I had picked up that “W30″ shiny red cape to pull out of my purse and put on – you know, for emphasis!

And then the nice server started bringing plates.  She brought ours first.  Two tiny, over-priced bowls of fresh fruit.  Thankfully, it was fruit that my daughter liked and it was ripe and pretty and all the beautiful colors of nature.  Then came the eggs – cooked in butter, I am sure.  The bacon – full of nitrates.  A biscuit – I sighed out loud.  I didn’t mean to – it just happened.  And then the pancakes.

I was pretty close to fine until the pancakes.  I may have even been fine with the pancake delivery, but once the butter started to get smeared around and the warm maple syrup started to pour out of the little container…I actually started to salivate.

There is nothing like the smell of warm pancakes and syrup.  And there is no way not to respond to the smell of warm pancakes and syrup.  It can’t be done.  (if you can ignore or not be tempted by pancakes – don’t tell me – I’d prefer to continue believing there was no possible defense).

Thankfully, the conversation and the company was wonderful and funny and distracting. But I did experience weakness.  Pancake envy.  Syrup lust.  Peanut was feeling it too, but she was a trooper.  She sighed as every plate was brought out – and she watched intently. But she never faltered.

That’s the thing about my daughter.  She needs to say out loud how much she misses certain foods, but she has a super-strong will.  She would never actually cheat.  She probably eats too much fruit for hers to be a true-to-the-letter Whole 30, but she made a commitment and she will see it through.  She will whine about it, but she will make it!

She has healthy snacks and water to take to the clinic.  I have a feeling they are going to work the girls pretty hard.  Stunting is not for the faint of heart.  I can barely watch and my daughter is a base.  If she were a flyer, I’d have to be tranquilized!

Anyway, we started today surrounded by pancakes and lived to tell the tale.  Still faithfully moving forward with our Whole 30 – YAY us!

By the way – if you read yesterday’s post…that Cracklin’ Chicken was the best chicken I have made in years!  Peanut asked for seconds!!!  It’s staying on my family’s permanent dinner rotation.

Whole 30: Day 11

TGIF…does anyone say that anymore?  Probably not, or I would have heard it sometime recently and wouldn’t have to ask the question!

I love Fridays mostly because there is no homework pressure on Fridays.  It’s the one day of the week where I can let the kids come home and chill.  My daughter has taken over the entire sofa and is on the i-Pad checking out her favorite fashion and makeup and dance blogs and Instagram sites, while watching a movie we’ve seen a dozen or so times.  My son is kicked back in the chair, Beats on, fingers flying across his phone texting and reading up on all the different sports teams he follows.

I am finally sitting down at the computer to do something other than work, study or pay bills – Yay me!

Last month I also loved Fridays because they meant pizza.  Whether I ordered them or pulled them out of the freezer – it was easy.  Convenient.  Tradition.  I think we’ve eaten pizza every school night Friday for the past 4 years (give or take the rare Friday when my husband is home and we might go out to eat).

Anyway, my Whole 30 adventure does not include pizza.  Certainly not Jet’s Pizza or whatever frozen number that was on sale at the market!  So, while I still adore Fridays, I know that in the next 30 minutes or so, I need to get my backside up and start dinner!  Boo!

Which brings me to what I have discovered in these first 11 days about completing a Whole 30…strictly my opinions and experiences!

  • I don’t think I could do this alone.  My family makes this a team sport and since it was my idea, I am the team coach.  The coach can’t cheat.  The coach can’t waiver.  The coach stays positive even when there IS cake at your daughter’s NJHS induction ceremony (hhheeeeeellllllllpppppppp meeeeeeeee)
  • The shopping is the hardest part.  Finding Whole 30 approved items is a challenge all by itself  BUT  being in a store, surrounded by convenience items and whatever your temptation is (mine is cheese and cheese and cheese and the cranberry/orange muffins at Central Market).
  • The prep and cooking ahead to make this as convenient as possible is a commitment.  A huge commitment.  Totally worth it, but a huge commitment.
  • For me, learning to make “sweetened” (I use this term very loosely) almond milk has saved my life.  It’s made my morning coffee enjoyable again.  It’s made a smoothie possible for my kids on days when they really need a treat.  It’s made some cooking tastier!
  • An omelet and a tossed salad are my go-to meal.  I have it for breakfast and lunch most days.  And on nights when it’s every-man-for-himself – I have it for dinner.  And I enjoy it!
  • I feel better already.  I haven’t felt “puffy” since the day I started.  Not even right after I have a full meal.
  • I have slept through the night the past 2 nights.  I never sleep through the night. I was convinced it was just part of aging as a woman.  Maybe not!
  • I have rediscovered hunger.  I wake up hungry.  I get hungry between meals.  I used to piece my way through most days.  A cracker.  A piece of cheese.  A Coke Zero.  A handful of pretzels.  A kiss or a few M&M’s.  I enjoy the feeling of hunger now – it freaked me out the first couple of days, but now, I think it’s a good thing! (plus, I’m getting good at having the right things around to snack on…lots of my prep is chopping up fresh veggies for just those emergencies!)
  • I believe I will make it to the end of May, no problem and I will be better off from this experience.

My husband and I have already started talking about going Paleo when our 30 days is up. I know it’s more expensive and less convenient, but the longer we eat this way, the more natural it becomes.  I’m glad we will be finishing our Whole 30 at the beginning of summer – it’s so much easier to be healthy in the summer.  Shorts, bathing suits and screaming hot weather are such an inspiration!  Plus – I do love a farmer’s market!

Okay – time to finally try the Cracklin’ Chicken from Nom Nom Paleo for dinner tonight.  I hope mine is half as good as hers sounds!  Fingers crossed.

Whole 30 – On the Road!

So Friday marked the first day of the Whole 30 for the kids – that meant breakfast on the go, packed lunches and the first night of my daughter’s dance competition an hour away!  YIKES!

I made these baked sausage and egg “muffins” on Thursday night.  I used this homemade sausage (thanks Martha Stewart!), 8 eggs, coconut milk, onions, garlic and mushrooms in the two I made for myself.

Most of the posts I’ve read about doing the Whole 30 with teens, says breakfast can be the biggest challenge and most had some kind of baked egg casserole or ‘muffin’.  They were good!  It was really hard to clean the muffin tin, so next time I’m using the paper muffin liners.  Save myself all that soaking and scrubbing!  But it was really nice to have something to nuke and pop a little approved hot sauce on and GO!

I saw a recipe on nom nom paleo for Prosciutto-Wrapped Mini Frittata Muffins that are on my list of things to try this week.  Of course I’ll have to switch it up a little – no child of mine would dream of eating a warm tomato.  I will make some exactly as the recipe says, but those will be just for me!

Packing lunches was tougher than I thought.  I have a lunch-packing formula that has worked for us for years.  My kids have always taken their lunch instead of buying.  But with the Whole 30 – my formula was out.  No Gatorade.  No sandwich – not the traditional kind, anyway.  No prepackaged, sugary treat.

I loaded them up with chopped veggies sticks and slices of pear with sunflower butter (it’s so bizarre to me that they both like the sunflower butter better than the almond butter – I much prefer the almond).  Then I made little lettuce-wrapped sandwiches for my son with the grass-fed, approved salami and some cabbage and grated carrots and orange peppers with a touch of the Tessamae dressing.

For my daughter – a hot dog.  Not just any hot dog.  An all beef, hormone free, grass fed, no casing, blah, blah, blah, overpriced hot dog.  It had to be ‘gently’ boiled for 5 minutes in water before I could pack it.  She loved it.  Figures.  Anything that’s on the low end of the price spectrum isn’t on the top of their flavor list.  But man, oh man, make it spendy and they LOVE it!  And they have no idea how much anything costs – I guess in the paleo world – you actually DO get what you pay for!

And then last night, my daughter was competing an hour away in a dance competition.  And we had a couple of hours to kill between dances and awards, so we needed to eat.  I packed a Whole 30 picnic.

I tried to keep it balanced the way they suggest. Lots of veggies.  Proteins and then some fruit for sweetness.

I had salami and cubes of grilled chicken and a pack of approved tuna.  I had carrots and cucumbers and red, orange and yellow peppers.  I had an orange, a few grapes and some of the Wonder Trail Mix.  I also had a spoonful of nut butter – my daughter has always loved to put peanut butter on her grapes – like a PB and J without the bread.  Organic, raw nut butters are NOT Jif, but she made it work.

The big challenge was the smell from all the fast food bags that families were bringing in.  And the snack bar. The rows and rows of candy bars called to me briefly, but I think they were screaming at her.  The first day is tough!

I told her, the first couple of days can easily turn into ‘thumb sucking’ days.  You know, feeling sorry for yourself.  Poor you, eating healthy.  I told them both – if someone offered you the choice between a Coke and living an extra six months, what would they choose?  I know it’s not that simple, but it makes me think of this as much less of a sacrifice.

The dull headache is probably coming up for both of them tomorrow.  She has three dances competing.  The dances will be fine – she’s a performer – a trooper.  It’s the costume changes I am worried about.  Any tiny bit of grumpiness during a costume change can result in ugly words and rolling eyes and guttural sounds that have no place in mother/daughter relationships – at least not in public!  Pray for us!

I have been headache-free all weekend.  I had some muscle aches yesterday, but nothing worth whining about.   I really wasn’t tempted to cheat, but I’m still noticing how much less convenient this is…probably because it’s so new and I’m learning.

I did have to hit the grocery today to get the stuff to try making homemade almond vanilla milk (my coffee is dying for something better than a glob of coconut milk) and walking through the bakery and the gourmet cheese departments had me grinding my teeth and muttering 4-letter words (like “cake” and “parm” and “yumm”!).  But we made it!

And I am so proud of myself.  It’s been years since I’ve done anything so consciously good for my health.  My husband and I are already talking about going paleo when this first 30 days is over.  I guess we’ll just have to see how significant the changes are once we get through the initial detox/craving phase!  One day at a time!

 

Whole 30, Day 3…the first headache

oh.  my.  goodness…. it’s here.  The headache I was properly warned of in all written info on the Whole 30.  It’s not a migraine.  It’s not debilitating.  It’s just a dull thudding behind and between my eyes.  Apparently, I am detoxing from the demon sugar.  Or the demon carbs.  Or the demon dairy.  Some demon is surely responsible!

Maybe it’s the demon dollar.  I bought lunch meat today.  Not the stuff in the little plastic containers from the refrigerated section of the normal grocery.  NO!  I bought stuff we can eat during these next 30 days.  The grass-fed, no hormone, no preservatives, no sugar added lunch meat from the healthier grocery store option.  Holy crap!

Don’t get me wrong.  I knew it would be more.  I felt like I had mentally prepared.

I was even okay at the deli counter.  I was fine at the raw nut, bulk bins shoveling $9.00 cashews into the plastic bag.  I was fine paying double for organic lemons for my water.  And then I got to the check out counter.

I was at Sprouts.  I love Sprouts.  My daughter and I go there to search out fun and interesting treats a couple of times a month.  But I’ve never been to Sprouts with a Whole 30 headache.   Today, the individual fresh baked cookies hanging at each check out line were so distracting!  And the standing baskets full of freshly baked French loafs – you know the kind – in the paper bag, so you can smell them, nearly pushed me right over the edge.

I phased out.  I went into a dream state where I pulled a hunk off the nearest loaf and stood there making inappropriate noises, eating a huge piece of deliciousness right in front of everyone.  It was so real my fingers tingled at the thought of reaching into the basket.

And then I laughed out loud.  And confirmed all suspicion that I was a crazy person out in public.  Oh well.  I didn’t break bread or my Whole 30.

I have chicken and sweet potatoes and onions in the crock pot and a head of cauliflower ready to roast.  I bought some sparkling (overpriced) water and plan to use our best wine glasses and cut up circles of organic lemons and limes to make it pretty and a bit more flavorful.

I know we weren’t supposed to start until Friday, but I just decided to go for it.  My husband went ahead and started today.  The kids are eating up the junk in the house and holding out for Friday.  At least this way, my headache should be gone so I can tend to them without wanting to sell them on e-bay.

I am pretty proud of myself.  And I’m really glad I started writing about it.  Today the temptation was there to sweep this thing under the nearest rug.  But I’ve told people.  And I’ve done research.  And I’ve purchased hundreds of dollars of organic foods.  So, I made it through.  Soon, the family will be home and I am never tempted to cheat or falter when my family is around.

 

 

Whole 30: I had no idea!

Day 2 of the Whole 30 preparations and I can tell you I am surprised that I have lived my entire life having no idea that sugar is hiding in EVERYTHING!  And soy is in far more things that I would have ever imagined.

My sweet husband and I spent hours at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods trying to find the staples that we knew wouldn’t be available at our Neighborhood Market and we struggled! We needed almond or coconut flour. I needed coconut milk to try and make my coffee a morning blessing instead of a morning necessity. Raw nuts and seeds, dried fruit that wasn’t drowning in sugars, nut butter with no additives or soy or sugar, organic ghee, these Tessamae dressings that are highly recommended and a few other things.

My biggest surprise was how hard it was to find stocks that didn’t have sugars in them.  Who knew my low sodium chicken stock had sugar?  It does.  It took quite a bit of label reading – thank goodness I had my readers hanging around my neck!  That ‘hidden sugar print’ is TINY!!!

Tonight I have to call around to find the 3 or 4 varieties of deli lunch meat that are Whole 30 approved.  I think having sliced lunch meat in his lunch will keep my son happy.  One of his favorite snacks is a big stack of lunch meat right out of the package.  Sadly, my favorite, seemingly healthy, deli turkey is full of sugars….ugh!

I’m kind of bummed about not being able to find a tiny, affordable drink of some sort for the kids to take to schol.  The juices – even the ones that shout “100% juice” and “Organic” on the boxes are full of sugars. They are just going to have to embrace water with some fruit slices.  Hopefully they won’t be tempted to cheat surrounded by their friends and their sodas and Starbucks.

as an aside….when did parents start delivering Starbucks and Sonic drinks to their kids daily?  My daughter feels deprived, but I can assure you that I am not going to be jumping on that train any time soon.  Sonic and Starbucks are special occasions or rewards or something we do ‘together’.  And why on Earth does the school allow it.  I can just imagine my Daddy driving up to my high school with a Diet Pepsi and expecting the office to call me out of class or come and get me so I could have a beverage!!!  ….sorry, it’s just been bothering me!

Anyway, I have been gathering recipes off Pinterest and websites and blogs and making a shopping list.  I hit our regular store and stocked up on veggies and few fruits.  I have to grab meat later in the week – closer to the start.  The organic stuff has a much shorter shelf life!  Which is probably a really good thing – I just have to get used to it.

The one thing I did buy was ground pork.  I found 3 one-pound packages on sale today and I made homemade, no-preservative, Whole 30 approved breakfast sausage.  I froze a pound in bulk, made 10 patties and froze them and then browned up a pound to add to the breakfast scramble I have planned for Friday morning’s kickoff breakfast.  It’s GOOD!  And it was simple – ground pork, some sage, crushed fennel seed, a little ground thyme, a touch of ground nutmeg, some salt and an egg white.

I also made the Whole 30 mayo from NomNomPaleo.  She’s my new hero.  She is creative and a mom and her food looks beautiful and the recipes may keep my daughter from living on sliced cucumbers and Cuties for the next month!  The paleo mayo is certainly not Hellman’s, but I think I’m going to combine mine with some horseradish and it will make me happy.  It will probably make the roast turkeys and chickens I will be making happier too!

To top it off – I went to lunch with a friend today – and it was really challenging.  I did what all the websites suggest.  I pulled up the menu and nutrition facts online before I left so I knew what I was getting.  I steeled myself and didn’t even glance at the menu – I ordered, paid and didn’t look back!

I went salad with grilled shrimp (no seasonings, no butter on the grill please), asked for no cheese (it was hard to say that out loud) and no tortilla strips (I think a single tear escaped down my cheek on that one!) and ordered pico for dressing, instead of the delightful avocado ranch.  I had water with lots of slices of citrus.  It was really tasty.  I didn’t feel deprived or weepy.  I did struggle with the cheesy plate of kid nachos she ordered for her son that sat uneaten through our meal…I’m only human, after all.  My kids get those nachos and I know exactly what kind of heaven they are.

I think the key for me will be to plan ahead.  If I don’t, I’m going to end up eating carrot sticks and wanting to go rogue.  I’m going to use my slow cooker like nobody’s business this month.  I’m going to create my menu tomorrow and finish up the shopping on Thursday.  I’m making the inaugural breakfast scramble Thursday night and then I will cook and chop most of Friday.

We have a dance competition this weekend and she dances Friday evening, Saturday evening and most of Sunday.  I hate it when we have to drive all three days, but I do love watching my Peanut dance!  That will definitely take my mind off cravings.  Sequins and bedazzles can cure almost anything!

A New Mini-Adventure1

Yesterday, my daughter and I were playing Mancala at Starbucks.  We’d dropped Murph off at the school to “play some ball” with his buddies – like they don’t get enough of that Monday thru Friday!  Anyway, she asked me why I don’t write on the blog anymore.  I’ve actually been writing a lot lately – I’ve got a book that’s busting out of me (that’s probably just like a million other novels out there, but I’ve gotten very attached to the characters, so I must finish) and I’ve been writing privately in a journal, but I haven’t even pulled up this website since December.

I guess I didn’t think I could write here anymore…I was afraid of the sadness of being here. Besides, I’m no longer my mom’s caregiver and that’s what this was really all about.

Then I realized that I may not be MOM’S caregiver any longer, but I am still a caregiver.  Of a beautiful family, 2 beautiful children and a ridiculously lovable rescue beast.  And, believe it or not, a caregiver to myself.  Something I’ve neglected terribly these past few years.

Last week would have been my Daddy’s 85th birthday.  He’s been gone 23 years, 3 months and a couple of days.  I still miss him.  I wouldn’t have traded 100 years with any other Daddy for the 30 I had with him, but I would trade almost anything else to have had him a bit longer.  Long enough to meet my husband and his grandchildren.  Long enough to celebrate a few more Christmases and birthdays and laugh at a few more jokes.

So…

I am on a mini-self-caregiver adventure.  I am going to ‘do the right thing’ nutritionally for the entire month of May.  I have somehow convinced my family to try a Whole30  with me.  

I’ve been seeing it everywhere.  My daughter has a dance teacher who survived and is thrilled with the results.  I have read the blogs, trolled the Pinterest sites (even started my own Whole30 boards this week!!!), read articles, watched news stories, checked out the web site over and over and over.

I’ve also thought of every reason in the world NOT to do it…it sounds REALLY hard to me and I’m convinced my daughter may starve to death in a month without chicken nuggets. The evidence of insanely cranky behavior in days 2-6 and then again on days 10-11 – and I’m guessing most days in between! has me a little hesitant.  Who signs up for that kind of pain and suffering?

BUT – I also know that my current age is a year AFTER my Daddy had his first heart attack and a mere 6 years before he prematurely passed away.  A quick peek in the mirror and I can identify the rounder parts of my father’s physique, and I only need to open the fridge or the pantry door to recognize many of the familiar treats and really unhealthy staples of my childhood.

This seems like a good idea.  Not an easy idea.  Or an altogether pleasant idea.  But a good idea.  An idea, if I can make it all the way through, has very few downsides.  I am certain I have a sugar addiction.  Probably carbs too.  Sounds like the withdrawal from both of these lovely ‘drugs’ of mine is much like having the flu.  Oh, goodie!

Anyway, I’m back to caregiving – but this time it’s for myself and my family.  And, although it will not be as life-changing as caring for mom the past few years of her life – I think I’m in for a challenge.  And I face challenges better when I share them – even if it’s just with this keyboard!

So, I’m going to write my way through this 30 days – hopefully get a couple of guest posts from my kids (they are not excited about this at all!)  My son is excited about the potential results, but would rather be placed in a medically-induced coma and Whole30’d through a tube, waking up cleansed.  If only….

We officially begin on Friday, May 1st, but preparations have already begun.  There is a lot to learn, to shop for and to prep if we are going to make it through.  Unless I can survive on roasted chicken and bags of baby carrots for a month, I need a game plan.

So, I’m back.  It’s a new kind of caregiving.  A new adventure.  I’m excited to see how eating healthy, clean, organic food – no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no preservatives, no beans, no sodas or alcohol.  YIKES!  Can we do it?  I guess we’ll see!

 

A Simple(ish) Day

I have always wanted to do this.  My lovely friend Paula always does this and I enjoy reading her “Simple Pleasures” week after week…But then mom got sick.  And then she got sicker.  And then she was gone.  And nothing was simple.  Even the simpler times were too fragile for me to write about them.  Or maybe I was too fragile!  Yeah, that sounds about like me…

Anyway – I have studied for over 3 hours today.  The trash cans are rolled back in.  One kiddo is home and one is not quite ready to be picked up.  Sophie, the rescue beast is in a ball on the red sofa and I really wanted to write….so, here is my first attempt at a Simple Woman’s Daybook Post!

Outside my window…it’s fall.  It’s overcast and the leaves are covering the ground (much to my OCD neighbor’s chagrin)  Grandpa’s handmade reindeer is standing guard under the oak tree …I’m pretty sure he is watching me out of the corner of his wooden eye.  Or maybe he’s looking over his reindeer shoulder to admire the festive red and green ribbons around his neck!

I am thinking…how contented I’ve become this holiday season.  I’m also thinking about whether or not to go through the hassle of frying bacon for the burgers tonight since it’s just Murph and me and he would be over the moon for a bacon cheeseburger!

I am thankful…for my friends and family.  I may not be technically needy, but I am so grateful to know I have people I can call any time I need a verbal hug or to laugh out loud or to just take my mind off the grief I am still going through since losing mom.

I am wearing…running pants (with absolutely no intention of running), a white t-shirt and the coziest gray hoodie (it’s my husband’s), white footies and Nike sneaks.  Having a great hair day, but no one is going to be the wiser…unless the middle schoolers walking by my car took time to notice and be wowwed!!!  (HA)

I am creating…a dough ornament for my daughter.  I want her to have a cheer ornament this year and I’ve decided I’m just going to have to make it to get what I want.  I’ve never done salt dough before, so it may take a couple of tries.

I am going…Well, I was supposed to be going to lunch with a dear friend…but I got a text that she ended up in the ER with a broken toe.  She’s fine…but I was so bummed.  I’m also going to drop my daughter off at dance and pick my son up from weightlifting.  I did all my shopping and errands over the weekend, so I can stay pretty close to home!

I am wondering…if I am going to be able to maintain this high level of studying for my Exam.  I’d like to schedule it for the week between Christmas and New Year’s and so far, I am on a roll…can I keep it up!?

I am reading…the Kaplan Series 6 Exam prep manual…over and over and over.  Highlighting, notating, big stars, lots of underlined words.  EEEEEK!

I am hoping…that my kids escape winter break with little or no homework so we can just enjoy the time together.  Of course, that could be because my daughter had 2 major projects due today and my brain is tired from watching her work, work, work all day yesterday!

I am learning…that no matter how many times I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” – I will get so angry when Potter takes Uncle Billy’s money and I will admire Clarence’s ability to not give a hoot what anyone thinks about his clothes and hot mulled wine and I will cry and cry and cry when the town shows up with money for George Bailey.

Around the house…it is a holiday wonderland.  I have been collecting Christmas decorations for as long as I can remember and it shows.  It has officially spilled into every single room this year.

In the kitchen…potatoes are scrubbed for a couple of bakers and bacon cheeseburgers are on the menu since it’s just me and the boy.  Barbeque for him and just plain for me, but with the giant honey wheat buns and the pepper jack cheese!  YUM…oh yeah, and my special spices for the burgers.

I am pondering…what to make to take to the neighborhood Christmas Eve party this year.  Something yummy.  But I dare not spend too much time on Pinterest or I will never pass my exam!

Favorite Quote for Today…“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

One of my Favorite Things…Holiday white chocolate covered pretzels with the bits of peppermint on top…they show up in the store, they end up in my shopping cart and suddenly, they are all gone!

A few plans for this week…Studying, studying, studying.  Spending today taking practice exams on section 1 & 2, tomorrow digging into section 3, Wednesday – going Christmas shopping with my husband and then to a Christmas concert at my friend’s church, Thursday – meetings and more studying, Friday – lunch with my hubby and some holiday baking.  I also hope to get a few walks in with my neighbor – we solve all the problems of the world on our walks!

A peek into one of my days…the halls are decked!

Five Minute Friday: Dear

Hard to believe it’s Friday – I feel as if the week has flown by.  I’ve been buried in my studies for my Series 6 exams with gusto this week.  And my daughter has been prepping for her first cheer competition and my son has been trying this new thing called studying on a regular basis.  Kind of making it a habit even when a specific project isn’t due the next day.  Amazing!

So, as I was driving my kiddos home from school and we were listening to Christmas music (which I was hoping would toss me back into the mood even though it’s in the 70’s today and that makes it hard for this Ohio girl.  Shorts and a t shirt just don’t scream Ho Ho Ho!)  Anyway, we heard the announcer talking about it being Friday – and I realized.  WOW!

So, here we are.  Time to write a little.  To put the exam manual down and the estate check list of tedium and write.  Just for 5 minutes…well…10 if you factor in all this preamble stuff I can’t seem to resist.  Time for Five Minute Friday…and this week’s prompt is DEAR.

GO:

Hello DEAR!  A favorite greeting.  A perfect term of enDEARment.  The beginning of a letter.  A compliment that is rarely given anymore….but those earrings really are DEAR!  And the way I hold so many things.

I realized one evening this week how traditional I’ve become.  How certain things – especially right now with all the decorations up and the twinkly lights on – have become so DEAR to me.  Ornaments from Christmases past.  Handmade things of yarn and felt and sequins and pipe cleaners that I made from the dime store craft department that have stories and flaws and are a bit worse for the wear.  Elementary school ornaments with school pictures and glue stick marks and handwritten names in giant marker letters from my beautiful children.  The first Santa that my husband bought for me and the Baby Jesus snow globe that plays “Away in a Manger”.  The poinsettia that I made for mom and wrote about last year…

My son’s name scratched into a table and my daughter’s crayon-drawn horse on a cabinet I painted many moons ago.  The hooks that are still hanging in this “computer/dining room” that was mom’s room just over a month ago where her sweater still hangs and still smells faintly of her lotion.

I saw the prompt and felt warmth today.  Just 5 minutes ago…yes, I’m going over…the timer buzzed and I’m shutting it off!  I like the word DEAR.  All that it means to me, at least.  I suppose if I had a drawer full of Dear John break up letters, I might be headed in a very different direction right now.

But today, for me…DEAR is just darling and just what I needed to write about.

STOP

For those of you new to Five Minute Friday – please pop over to Kate Motaung’s and join us, won’t you?  It’s freeing – I promise!

Thanksgiving

My how time flies…It’s been nearly an entire month since mom passed away – right here in this room where I am now typing.  I can still feel her presence – especially in the mornings.  Probably because that was one of our special, just me and mom times.  It’s a good feeling.  A safe feeling.  Almost comforting, but not quite.  Still too much sadness to feel like a whole hug.  But I’m glad I can still feel her here.

She had been all over the house this week.  Of course.  It was Thanksgiving.  Mom may not have been your classic domestic goddess, but she could rock a Thanksgiving meal!  And she did.  For all the years of my childhood.  Even though it was just me and mom and daddy.  And sometimes Wally and Gloria, but many times – just the three of us.

And now I do the same.  A feast!  Even when it’s just the four of us.  Although this year we were blessed with my father-in-law and his wife and their leggy hound dog named Sally.  It was such a wonderful day.

The wonderful really started the day before…or maybe 3 days before when I accomplished most of the shopping before the crowds hit the markets!  On Wednesday, I only needed 2 things – cinnamon sticks and bread for the dressing.  I went with Hawaiian bread this year, instead of Challa and I think it may be a permanent change!

But the real wonderful began about 3:00pm on Wednesday when my daughter and I started cooking for the big day.  I am learning how to get stuff ready so all I have to do on Thanksgiving is pop it in the oven or into a cute serving dish.  I started this a couple of years ago and get better at it each and every year.

And this year, my daughter was all in!  She may not be much of an eater – but she loves to prep in the kitchen.  She has her own special way of dicing onions (this started 2 years ago and has become a ridiculous tradition and photo op that I look forward to more than I should!)  The swim goggle, giant knife method of onion dicing…too funny!

She tried her hand a several things this year – cutting dried fruits for the Sausage and Fruit dressing, helping me wash and brine the turkey, sautéing, zesting and squeezing oranges.  We had a blast!

And I got to share lots of Thanksgiving stories with her – stories about cooking with my mom.  The history of some of the recipes and how they have changed since I was a little girl.  And why.  We also shared a box of Archway Cashew Nougat cookies…my mom’s favorite holiday cookie.  Daddy always brought a box or two (or twenty) of those cookies home along with the turkey and fixings from the grocery store and we always managed to polish off an entire box while we were cooking!  I am pleased to say, the tradition continues!

We also made sweet potato casserole – the kind with the topping of as many marshmallows as you can cram on top in my mom’s very old, very classic casserole dish.  That dish has been at 99% of my Thanksgiving dinners.  I think it only didn’t make it to one – because it was my first time cooking and mom took full advantage of it and didn’t bring a thing except a bottle of wine and an appetite!

And on Thanksgiving, we watched the Macy’s Day Parade – just like when I was little.  And no one complained.  I used to put the parade on (because it’s tradition and I never mess with tradition!) and the kids would try and change the channel and put on something plain.  Some show that they could watch any day.  And I stood my ground.  And now, they look forward to the parade as much as I do.  They run out of the kitchen and plant themselves in front of the tv to see their favorite singer or balloon or the Rockettes…exactly like I used to do when I was little.

I will pause from nostalgia for a moment to brag about the best turkey I’ve ever made.  Perfectly cooked.  Freakishly moist.  Gorgeous and browned to perfection.  And I have no idea why…but I like to think it was mom looking down on us and sending a bit of her turkey magic.  I’m a side expert, but that darned bird and I go round and round every year.  So, thanks mom – I am certain your angel was in the kitchen keeping me from opening the oven too often and not forgetting to baste and inspiring me to buy just the right sized bird.

And so the day went.  Great family and traditions and food and conversation and wine and weather and togetherness.  Awful day for the Cowboys, but as a Browns fan, I’d rather that than a raw turkey or lumpy gravy (forgive me, all my Texas friends!)  We made memories and deepened traditions and even at this time when my future is uncertain – we found a hundred things to be grateful for.

We may not live fancy or extravagantly or have everything we want, but we have each other.  We have our health and an awesome dog and warm blankets and an appreciation of simple pleasures and twinkly lights and so much laughter in each day.  I probably don’t stop and revel in my blessings enough – but when I do…I realize what a wonderful life I am living every day.

Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving and find time to be grateful every day for who and what you have in your life.

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