Monday, May 30, 2016

Mommy Mondays: Mom Groups

When Thatkid was born, I was really excited about maternity leave, and staying home with him.  And that was fine for the first 3 months.  After that, I started getting a little stir crazy.  The only adult conversation I had was with Thatboy when he got home from work.  My best friends had moved away while I was pregnant, and I wouldn't have been a very good friend anyway.  Which is a hazard of having a new baby when your friends don't have kids.

But it's hard to make friends as an adult.  Where do you meet other like-minded adults if you're not in school? 

I tried taking Thatbaby to baby activities, but there's weren't a lot that worked with our schedule.  And I have a little social anxiety in those places anyway - so I didn't initiate any conversations with the other women there.

I decided to look for a local moms' group.  I went on Meet-Up and found a couple in the area.  I looked at the members to see if they had similar age kids.  I went to huge meetups and small meetups.  And I found my tribe.

I consider myself so lucky to have found these women.  It was one of the smaller, more localized groups.  And to tell you the truth, I wasn't originally going to meet with them.  They all had "older" children, born in early 2011, while my little guy was an end-of-the-yearer. 

Except one.  Superwoman had a son just a couple days younger than Thatkid.  AND she lived around the corner from me.  I ended up going to meet her, and connecting with the entire group.

It's been 4.5 years since we've met and I couldn't ask for a better, more perfect group.   They're always there for me and my kids.  They are fantastic with advice.  And they get being a mom.

I didn't really understand the importance of having mom friends before I was a mom.  I was the first in my group to get married and that didn't change the relationships with any of my friends.  But kids are different.  And being friends with other moms means they understand when you cancel last minute because your kid was up all night, or sick, or throwing a massive temper tantrum.  Being friends with other moms means they know exactly how to discipline your kids and keep them from trouble.  Or that you always have someone to take your kid to the bathroom (Thanks L&O!).  They just get it.

So one of my big pieces of advice to new moms is to find a moms group.  But not just anyone, a good one.  Like anything else in life, you can't find insta-friends with all people.  So if one isn't a good fit, try another one.  Because that saying "it takes a village"?  It's not so far off.  So find your village.

Friday, May 27, 2016

End of the Season: Iced Almonda and Garlic Soup

It was a long couple months, but baseball season has come to an end.  I would be lying if I said that I was going to miss the two-games a week schedule, but I will miss watching Thatkid play with his friends.

This was our first experience with organized sports and I think it went really well. 

Not only did Thatkid improve though the season, but he also had a really good time.  He loved playing baseball.

His favorite position was "pitcher" which for t-ball means he stands on the pitcher's mound, and throws the ball to first base after it's hit.  Kid has quite an arm on him.

But he also had plenty of practice fielding, batting, running, and even being catcher.

It was also fun for him to be on the same team with some of his friends from school.  Although that also got them into trouble quite a bit. 

At the close of the season we had a big pizza party for the team.  Which was insane.  Kids are insane.  4 year olds are insane.  Put them in a pizza joint with games and cupcakes?  Well you're just asking for trouble.  But it's so nice to see them interacting in a non-baseball setting.

Saturday we attended the closing ceremonies.  And all the kids got a trophy.  I know there's a bunch of people who think the idea of a participation trophy is silly, but it was amazing to watch Thatkid's face light up.  He was so proud, and he kept saying things like "I can't believe I got my first trophy ever."  He carried it around with him for the rest of the day.

It's funny that the end of the season coincides with the beginning of summer, since baseball is such a summer sport.  In fact, the day of the closing ceremony was HOT!  I spent the whole time fighting with Thatbaby to keep his hat on. 

And warmer weather means colder soups.  Right?  Most cold soups fall into the realm of gazpacho, fruit soups, or yogurt soups.  This one relies on nuts.  We already know that nuts get very creamy when processed (hello peanut butter!) so the creaminess of this soup is no surprise.  But it's more than just a nut-soup, the kick of garlic keeps it fresh and interesting.  Paired with a chilled glass of white wine, this is the perfect soup for eating in the backyard and enjoying the longer nights.  And in my case, the longer nights without rushing to and from a baseball game!

Iced Almond and Garlic Soup
1 cup blanched almonds
3 slices white bread (stale if possible)
4 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups ice water
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

  1. Put the almonds, bread, garlic, olive oil, and 2 cups of water in a food processor.
  2. While the food processor is running, slowly add the remaining 2 cups of water.
  3. Season with salt and vinegar.  Chill for 1 hour.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Sun-Dried Summer

Here in sunny Southern California the weather just can't seem to make up its mind.  This week it's been unseasonably cold.  Last week it was super warm.  So warm in fact, that we met up with the Pirates at the beach.

It was a beautiful day.  A little chilly, but not too cold.  And while Thatboy wore a wetsuit in the water, Thatkid was just as happy in only a swimsuit.  He and Little Pirate played in the waves and went boogie boarding and dug big holes to play in

We picnicked on the beach, and it was so nice to just hang out with friends.

When Thatkid was a baby, we couldn't stop him from eating sand.  Thatbaby has no such attraction.  In fact, he spent most of the time there complaining about sand in his mouth.  Such a delicate little flower.

But you can understand his distress when usually we eat much more delicious things than sand.  And this burger perfectly encompasses the deliciousness of summer.  In general, I'm not a huge fan of sundried tomatoes, they're too oily for me.  But Trader Joes sells them not packed in oil, but just the dried tomatoes themselves.  Like raisins.  And those I like.  I also like using spinach instead of tasteless iceberg lettuce on my burgers.  And tangy goat cheese is a perennial favorite here.  

This weekend, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer.  We're ringing it in with lots of friends, and very little cooking from me.  But if that's not the case for you, this is the perfect way to ease into summer.  Dust off your grills and get ready for warmer weather.

Sun-Dried Summer (From Cooking Light)
1 lb lean ground sirloin
  8 Tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup fresh spinach
4 oz goat cheese
4 whole grain hamburger buns
  1. Divide sirloin into 4 patties.  Grill the burgers for 3 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness.
  2. Place burger on bun and top with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and goat cheese.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mommy Mondays: Musings on Two

I've been thinking a lot about my boys lately.  How Thatbaby will never know what it's like to have our undivided attention, but he will also never know what its like to be friendless.

I always knew I wanted more than one child.  In fact, my "plan"  (hahahahaha) was 3 kids, a boy, then a girl, then another boy.

We joked about our reasons for having another kid
- someone to take care of us when Thatkid ended up in prison
- someone to keep Thatkid entertained
- we needed another tax deduction

But in reality, it was based on our my own personal experience.  I knew we wanted more than one child, because I grew up with a sibling.  It's what I know.  And as much as I didn't always get along with Thatbrother, I can't imagine life without him.  A constant ally, someone who gets the same jokes I do, and support when dealing with our parents.

We went out to dinner this weekend with friends who have a baby a month younger that Thatbaby.  And they're already thinking of number 2.  Except of course when they're out with our group, where the rest of us have 2.  Because the reality seems daunting.  And in a way it is.  On Mother's Day the woman at the table next to us told us she was pregnant and worried about 2, because all her friends warned her of the chaos.

And 2 can be chaos.  There are 4 hands for making messes, 2 bodies throwing themselves from heights, and sound is exponentially louder when 2 mouths are making it. 

But then there are moments like Sunday morning, when both boys were in our bed, crawling over us and giggling.  Playing with each other.  Or those moments when I walk into a room and find Thatkid reading to his little brother.  Those moments make it all worth it.  And we're lucky - the 3.5 year age difference means there are a lot of those moments.  No jealousy, independence, and genuine love for each other.

I don't know if I really felt like our family was missing anything when we only had one child, but I definitely feel complete with our two.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Runday: Cinco De Mayo Trail Run

I got home from the Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon on Tuesday night, so of course Saturday had me running another race.

As part of my "run all the holiday races" resolution, I had signed up for the Cinco De Mayo Trail Run.  Cinco De Mayo may be a more minor holiday than say, Valentine's Day, or Halloween, but hey - it's a holiday and there's a race.  Yay!

I didn't do a lot research when I signed up, but I noticed that the 5k was the same price as the 10k, so I figured I'd get the most bang for my buck by signing up for the 10k.

And then the week for the race we got our email from the race director with last minute information.  Which is the first time I noticed the word "grueling" before the 10k.  Crap.  Reading on they describe it as a "Punishing one-of-a-kind 10K."  Crap. Crap.

"The 10K adds to this course — with a grueling out-and-back trek (or up-and-down if we’re being honest) into Blue Sky and a quad-burning +10% climb to the Ramona Dam. Take our advice and start training now!"  Crap.Crap.Crap.

So here I am, having just run a half marathon, about to embark on a 10k into "Blue Sky" which is literally Blue Sky Ecological Preserve, but works just as well as a figurative metaphor for this race which climbs into the sky.

It was the perfect morning for a run.  The weather was cool and slightly overcast, which made for some beautiful views.

The race emails warned about limited parking at the race location itself, and of the fact that at 7am the lot would close.  Both of these warnings turned out to be untrue, and as the race started there were still cars coming in and parking in the numerous empty spaces.  But since I didn't know that until it was too late, I parked at one of the off-site locations and took a shuttle to the start.  Not knowing how often the shuttles would run, I got there extra early, and then waited around for quite a while for the race to start.  Just waiting and worrying.

The race started in waves and we were off!  I got a little cocky once the race started.  I'd run my fair share of trails, and this didn't seem so bad.  Sure there were hills, but I can do hills!

And like I said, it was the perfect day for a run.  With beautiful views of the lake.

The first 2 miles were fairly typical trail miles.  Loose rock, narrow trails, and uneven terrain.  No big deal.  And then we started the climb up to the dam.

As many people slowed to a walk I thought to myself "don't walk, that will just make it take longer.  You can do this, just slow your run."   That didn't even last a full mile.  Sometime before mile 3 I gave in to the walk.  Walk a little, run a little, just make it to the top.

But finally I did make it to the top.  Yay! And then I got to run back down.  And run I did.  It was much more pleasant running down than it had been attempting to run up.  I felt good, I felt like I could finish this race.

I had looked at the course map before the start, and the course was a loop.  But for some reason I still had it in my head that it was out and back.  So once I got to the top of the dam, I thought the hard part was over.  Those are obviously famous last words.

To get back to the finish line, we had to climb another, well, really, the best way to describe it would be a mountain.    There was no other way to get back, so onward I went.  Probably the longest 2 miles of my life!  I think this sign best sums up my performance during the race.

So at least I can comfort myself with knowing that I was following instructions?   The very last portion of the race was uphill to the finish - quite the opposite of most races I've run where you can go sailing through the finish.  Instead I got to struggle up those last few feet, while  a mariachi band played me in.  Everyone should have a personal band playing them in.

When the race finished, I went and waited for a shuttle so I could get to Thatkid's last baseball game of the season.  The race had taken me almost 20 minutes longer than I had expected, and waiting for the shuttle definitely made me precariously close to being late.

This was a really challenging race, probably the hardest I've ever run.  But the course is really pretty, and I wouldn't mind running it during non-race times with some friends.  Or maybe just those first 2 miles!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bouncin' Around: Aloo Chat

Mother's Day weekend was incredibly busy for us.  Thatboy and I joked there was no way we could possibly fit more in to May 7.  It started with a race for me, then a baseball game for Thatkid, and then we headed right over to the birthday party of one of his friends.

Thatkid doesn't meet the kindergarten cutoff for this fall, but most of his friends do, including the birthday boy.  It's going to be so strange for him next year when his friends all move on.

Luckily his bestie J3 is also a late fall baby, so at least they'll have each other.  Although I feel sorry for the rest of the kids at preschool when these two are the BMOC.

We left the party and came home with just enough time to jump in the shower before heading out to visit H, who was at Disneyland for the week.  It was good to see H and her family, we haven't seen them since before Thatbaby was born.  But we didn't get home till late, after leaving the house pretty early in the morning.

I have such a hard time with balance.  Ideally, my weekends would be full of nothing.  Maybe sleep.  Or even some light house work.  But I just can't say no, especially with kids.  Which means that even when we are home, there's very little sitting around.  So our weekends are busy, and there is very little catching up on much needed rest.  One of these days I'll learn my lesson.

Until then, you can be sure that we have just as many quickly thrown together meals on the weekend as we do during the week.  Although I try to spice up the menu a little on the weekend.  Bringing in some exotic flavors, like chile and coconut, this is a vegetarian dish that is cooked in a single pot, making clean up really easy.  It also comes together in about 20 minutes.  So quick, easy, and flavorful?  Appreciated on a nonstop, go go go weekend.

Aloo Chat
1/2 cup ghee
1 onion, finely chopped
10 fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 small red chile, pitted and thinly sliced
1 tsp ground tumeric
2 tsps ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
2/3 cup 2water
coconut shavings
cilantro leaves
  1. Heat the ghee in a skillet, add the onion, and cook 5 minutes, until transluscent.
  2. Add the potatoes, chile, tumeric, coriandwre, cumin, and a little salt and fry for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are lgihtly browned.
  3. Add the water nad rbing to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the potatoes are tender.
  4. Cool and scatter the coconut shavings and cilantro leaves on top before serving.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Grecian Gourmet

This is my very belated Mother's Day recap.  I'm sure it will surprise exactly none of you that Mother's Day was extremely busy 'round these parts.  Because every day is busy 'round these parts.  It was full of wonderful things, but it made me realize that Mother's Day was definitely planned by a man.  Why else would it be scheduled for a Sunday when that means spending the evening prepping for the rest of the week?

The morning started out with a race, which I'll eventually get around to recapping.  (Consider this your cliffhanger!  Aren't you dying to know what happened?)

After the race, we headed out to breakfast.  Because I didn't even think about making a reservation until the week of Mother's Day (camping trip planning left me completely lacking in all other planning areas) all the restaurants in the area were booked.  But they were still taking walk-ins.  So we found ourselves at The Patio on Lamont. 

It was a beautiful day to wait outside.  Thatkid played a card game with Thatboy, while I corralled Thatbaby who had decided the stairs were his own personal playground.

Eventually we were shown to our seat, in the "baby" section of the restaurant.  I mean, I'm sure it was unintentional that the area we were sat in had a baby at every table.  If I sound annoyed, that's not my intent.  I actually think it's a fabulous idea, because no one is more understanding of eating out with a baby than another family with a baby.  We made quick friends with the table beside us who had a 14 month old and another on the way.  I reassured them that 2 kids wasn't a nightmare, while Thatboy filled their head with fear.  We're a good team.

After my race, and because it was Mother's Day, I decided to indulge in one of The Patio's morning libations - The Short Stack, featuring whiskey, butterscotch, oj, and bacon.

Thatboy and I decided to split the eggs benedict and the chilaquiles.  The chilaquiles were the clear winner of the two dishes.  Even Thatbaby loved them.  The chips, the chicken, and the eggs.

 After breakfast we headed up to Carlsbad to meet Thatmom for her Mother's Day celebration - strawberry picking!

We each picked a basket of red ripe berries, and ate a fair amount too.

After strawberry picking we went with Thatmom to grab some lunch for her.  The rest of us were still full from breakfast.  But not too full for ice cream after!  We went our separate ways and did a little supermarket shopping for the week.  By that time it was dinner time.  My plan had been to make dinner, but Thatboy thought we should go out for Mother's Day.  We were not the only people with this idea, and since it was last minute, the waits were insane.  So home for burgers it was.  Which isn't terrible.  I love a good burger, and I got to go out to breakfast, which was my mother's day request.

Thatkid and I love feta, and this burger uses it in the best way possible.  Paired with spinach, which is pretty much the best way to pair feta, it adds a completely different dimension to a "cheese burger."  The cool, garlicy tzatziki adds enough flavor that you won't even miss your ketchup.

Grecian Gourmet (From Cooking Light)
1 lb lean ground sirloin
4 Tbsp chopped red onion
  8Tbsp crumbled feta
1 cup fresh spinach, tossed with 1 tsp olive oil
4 oz tzatziki sauce
4 whole grain hamburger buns
  1. Divide sirloin into 4 patties.  Grill the burgers for 3 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness.
  2. Combine onion, feta, and spinach in a small bowl.
  3. Place burger on bun and top with tzatziki sauce and spinach mixture.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mommy Mondays: 11 months

Weight: 20lbs 10 oz (+12bs 6oz) - left over from 9 months
Height: 30.5 inches (+9.25 inches) - left over from 9 months
 Head: 18.1 inches - left over from 9 months

Sleep:  Better than last month, but we're still dealing with teething, so there are still multiple wakeups at night.  Usually 2.  Thatboy takes one and I take one.  Because we're a team.  Team No Sleep.

Eating: We had our first real illness, complete with antibiotics.  He had both pink eye and an ear infection.  And as can be expected, his solid intake went down during that time period.  But he bounced back.  Luckily it didn't seem to affect his ability to nurse/take a bottle.  He's still drinking 16oz while at daycare.  I'm really looking forward to switching him to milk at 12 months!

Best Moment: He was such a delight during the camping trip.  I loved watching how independent he was, entertaining himself at the camp site.  And I also love all his impromptu snuggles.

Monthly Wisdom: This month I'm going with "trust your mom instinct."  Everyone kept telling me Thatbaby was sick and/or had an ear infection.  Neither Thatboy nor I thought he was sick, in fact he was sleeping better than he had in weeks.  But we brought him in to Urgent Care....aaannndd he got a clean bill of health.  This works the other way too - if you feel like your kid is sick, bring them to the doctor, even if everyone tells you you're crazy.  No one knows your child like you do.

Goals for the Upcoming Month:
- Birthday party planning
- More sleep

Things Thatbaby is doing:
- signing "milk" and "all done"
- saying "uh oh" and "gah"  (we're not sure what "gah" is, but it has to do with identifying objects since he points at everything and says "gah."
- dancing/bopping
- climbing up (and down) stairs - feet first!
- growing teeth - current tally is 4
- only using 1 hand for support when standing
- crying unless mommy or daddy are holding him
- drinking from a cup (sippy/straw/360)
- using a spoon (not proficiently)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Avocado-Mango Tango

If you're just checking in, this is my last recap in the series of recaps of our trip to the redwoods of Humboldt County.  You can find Part I here, and Part II here.  This part covers the trip home.

After a rough night (teething isn't fun for anyone and Thatbaby believes that misery loves company) we awoke early, but not so bright and shiny.  While Thatboy started packing up our site, I heated up the last of our foil packet meals.

Breakfast burritos!  These were a hit with everyone.  Even the little guys.

After breakfast there was more packing up, getting dressed, final bathroom stops, and then we were in the car headed home.  We got a later start than on the way up, which meant a very long day in the car for all of us, but the boys were fairly good sports. 

We stopped overnight in San Luis Obispo, but due to the late hour, didn't get to enjoy it as much as we usually do.  And the next morning we were back on the road so we could make it home at a decent hour.  That last car day was the worst during the trip.  I think by that time we were all a little stir crazy. 

We got home in time to run to the supermarket and pick up a couple things for the week, and then it was back home, prepping for work and school the next day.  I wish we had gotten back a little earlier.  Or taken the next day off work.  It's hard to jump right back into the swing of things.  And a week later, I'm still feeling like I'm struggling to catch up.   The house is a mess, nothing is prepped for the next day which means late nights and very little sleep.  Having a regular burger night is a temporary reprieve.  Most nights I try to prep dinner for the following evening.  However burgers cook so quickly that I can make them the same night we eat them, getting me to bed earlier.

As the weather warms up, fruit salsas become ubiquitous.  Chips and salsa are a staple 'round here any time of the year, but in the summer I love a good melon, papaya, or mango salsa.  It just bursts with color and sweetness.  One of my favorite easy summer meals is grilled chicken topped with mango salsa, so this burger felt like a meatier version of that dish.  I tend to chop my avocado up and toss it into my salsa, but avocado slices work just as well.

Avocado-Mango Tango (From Cooking Light)

1 lb lean ground sirloin
1 avocado sliced
  8Tbsp mango salsa
4 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
8 Tbsp shredded Monterey Jack cheese
4 whole grain hamburger buns
  1. Divide sirloin into 4 patties.  Grill the burgers for 3 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness.
  2.  Sprinkle cheese over burgers during last minute of cooking.
  3. Place burger on bun and top with avocado, salsa, and cilantro.