Things I'll Miss....

A spirited game of equation tic-tac-toe.
Quiet moments of honesty when I remember to ask and then really listen to what they say.
Stickers working as prizes, even for high school students.


Trail Magic

You will not believe who we ran into at the park this weekend.

We gave a couple of hikers a ride at the Hardcore Trail Build event in May 2008. We knew this girl only as Pearl, chatted with her in the car on our way down the mountain, and wished her well as she and her partner went on their way north up the AT.

On Friday evening, our kids crossed paths at the playground. While we were chatting as they played with a jump rope, we discovered our previous connection.

This type of thing happens all the time in Pittsburgh. Last weekend I helped my neighbor's girlfriend move...also helping with the move was another friend I know from a completely different circle. Keven Bacon may have six degrees, but in Pittsburgh, it's more like 2 or 3.

However, I was completely surprised to run into a hiker from Virginia, who we met on a mountain top in Tennessee, 4 years ago, never having exchanged real names or contact information.


Never Postpone Joy

There is a reason that my toilet needs to be cleaned and it is afternoon jaunts with my family. On bicycle, we take our hammocks to the park and string them up to lounge in the late afternoon heat. Laurel dances between us, climbing in one hammock and then back out again on her way to the other. Another day, we go to Phipps Conservatory and look at orchids and butterflies, in the soothing background noise of greenhouse fans and water fountains. We fingerpaint on the front porch and pin down our wet paintings with flower pots, to dry in the breeze.

My toilet needs to be cleaned and my end-of-school paperwork isn't done yet and somebody should cook dinner.

But instead, we choose this.

I can always tell when I have forgotten to prioritize joy because little things bother me. When I choose joy it doesn't matter if it's too hot to sleep comfortably or the laundry piles up or Laurel has a tantrum. All of that still feels like a blessing.

I have no memories of life before the age of four. My first memory is the color of the carpet in the house we lived in when my brother was born. I don't remember him, but I remember the carpet. And the brassy gold color of a tv cart.

So it would be silly for me to say that all this choosing joy is because of Laurel. She won't remember it. It's really because of me, and for me. Being a mother means making a million decisions a day for the good of your child. Diapers or underwear? Mac and cheese again? How to explain Jesus? Lights out now or one more story?

But in the midst of all that, I'm grounded in all these joyful moments, sprinkled throughout my days.It doesn't make it easier to make a decision, necessarily, but it does keep things in perspective.



Red tulips. Ginger chocolate. Dinner with family. A toast from Laurel. Coffee Tree stop on the way to school. Birthday cards in the mail. GF strawberry pie. Babysitting help at bedtime.

Peace and quiet. Early bedtime. Best birthday ever.


Can't sleep, found this....

So, that's why I wasn't drinking coffee. Ahem. I'm all jazzed up from an overly busy week and a poorly timed soy latte.

But I'm screwing around on the internet and I found this in my youtube account. Laurel, age 4 weeks. Whaaaa? She was that little? And that bald? But, I can see Laurel's personality in her eyes, and in her constant motion. Same girl now. Just big. And talkative, and with wild, long hair.


Mother's Day 2012

I knew it was coming - they all said it would. One day she preferred his company to mine. Then last week, she got a fever, and he was the one available to pick her up from daycare and tend to her. After that, she ran to him with a skinned knee, and asked that he read a book, not me. Specifically, she said that, "Not Mommy."

In the endless nights of infancy, I told myself that this was a phase, that she was needy for me in a very intense way, but that it would end. And truly, that thought did help me to cherish the closeness we had in her first and second year, and not just get through that time, but enjoy it for what it was.

So, now on this Mother's Day 2012, she's a daddy's girl. She's extraordinarily assertive and independent, at just 2 1/2. We noticed this weekend that she can work a zipper...we went camping and she had no problem at all getting out of the tent, and then later, at home, I watched her zip and unzip a little bag as she was playing a game.

The game, incidentally, consisted of her taking a packed lunch (of doughnuts, a quart of chocolate milk, and sandwiches) to the Laurel Island (Laurel Highlands), and after eating, she put the food away and brought out a pretend Maurice Sendak book, which was really a Pac Man instruction manual from M's Nintendo. All direct quotes from Laurel. I played along, but the game was all hers. I love her imagination.

As mothers, we tread a fine line between wanting to be needed and wanting our children to grow up and not need us anymore. I think it must ebb and flow over the years, as they move through developmental phases, and we adjust our parenting.

The feeling is one of excitement and pride and heart-breaking sentimentality, all at once. Worth it, yes, but  a little painful, nonetheless.


Quotable Kids...including Bristol Palin?

The weather is warmer, the trees are in bloom and we're down to a manageable 25ish days of school left. The kids are antsy. Today we gave new seats in my algebra classes and there was the expected amount of b-ing and m-ing. But I got a chuckle when one kid complained about having to sit in the front row and now he couldn't sleep, and one of the other kids shouted out, "First world problem!". So what, if it's a stale internet meme. Still funny in the moment.

But later this afternoon, my friend emailed me a link to Bristol Palin's blog, where she commented on President Obama's remarks on gay marriage. So, there's going to be 14 bazillion comments on that post by tomorrow, and I'm not going to link from here, because I think it's probably inflammatory on purpose.

Her general point was that President Obama was swayed into his position by influence from his children, and that was somehow wrong because "...there's also a time when dads simply need to be dads..." and presumably he should have set them straight. Point their moral compass or something, as perhaps Bristol wishes her own father did (ahem, unwed teen mom, ahem).

Marriage can be a great and sacred thing. I've been married almost 9 years, and we have plenty of greatness and sanctity in our relationship. And plenty of hardship and turmoil and fighting and making up. Because marriage is hard. I hope that I do a good job of modeling marriage for my daughter and that our family is one of many models that she will be witness to growing up.

But when our kids look around at our culture, they also see marriages on television as game show prizes on programs we know as "REALITY TV"! And a 50% + divorce rate. That's just hetero's, folks, because we don't let anyone else try it. And I want to point out that lots of people grow up healthy and normal even though they watched parents go through divorce and then build blended families. Divorce is not a ticket straight to the loony bin...I happen to know a lot of very normal, functioning adults who are products of "broken homes".

Our kids see all this, and when we tell them that gay people can't get married because "marriage has been a certain way for thousands of years" - to loosely paraphrase Britain's comments...they are apt to say "That's dumb. Why does it have to be that way?" And maybe, "Well marriage used to be like that, but it's clearly not that way anymore!"

I work with teenagers. They question everything.

Then I come home to a two year old. She questions everything.

If I don't have a good reason for doing things a certain way, that should be a cue for me to listen to their questions and challenges and ask them if they have a better way.

 I had a good reason for front-row sleeper boy today..."Son, you are on the verge of failing Algebra 1 and you once expressed an interest in becoming an engineer. You are going to need Algebra. I want to give you a front row seat so you don't miss anything, and I can help you turn your study habits around."

Sometmes it's "I don't want you to keep chatting through class with your friend over there, because I've already tried a bunch of ideas to remind you to be quiet. So now I want you to sit here because the other kids want to hear what I have to say and you are disrupting that."

One of those reasons is about about his needs, and one of them is about my needs, but they are still both valid reasons.

But if I didn't have a reason? Well, I should listen to the kids. President Obama was simply commenting that his kids didn't seem to have the social stigma associate with being gay. What's the big deal, they wondered?

Just because people are young, doesn't mean they don't have good ideas. Innovative ideas. Compelling ideas. They are really good at pointing out absurdity, and it makes us cringe.

But it's good to listen to them.



I'm on day 21ish of the elimination diet. I am losing enthusiasm for the slow pace of reintroducing foods, so I sort of reintroduced all of phase 3 at once, having experienced no symptoms with phase 2. At this point, I'm definitely going to hang on and stay off dairy, most grains, gluten, eggs, peanuts, caffeine, and refined sugar until I hit about 5 or 6 weeks, and then slowly reintroduce these in three day cycles.

The biggest challenge has been eating enough, and finding high caloric food that satisfies me. I even ate some lamb yesterday to satisfy that craving. I don't own a scale, but I've noticeably slimmed down, losing all the baby weight, and then all the late-twenties beer weight, and now I look a bit like I did when I tried to be vegan while living in the Georgia Tech dorms and subsisted on a very limited diet of huge mounds of salad, chickpeas and french fries, which in Georgia are the only things not cooked with ham.

Hungry. So. Very. Hungry.

M took Laurel to the baseball game, so I went grocery shopping in an uncharacteristically quiet and pensive manner and thought about Michael Pollan...in his book In Defense of Food, he advises to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants"  - which makes a lot of sense to me, except we mostly already do that. I have amaranth in my shopping basket, for goodness sakes. My daughter can identify vegetables like radishes and kale and ginger. Even at the Co-op, we're still "perimeter shoppers" . I don't usually spend a lot of time reading ingredients because our food doesn't have them. They just are ingredients.

And I still got sick.

I've been amazed downright hostile about how my gastroenterologist didn't give me very clear guidelines regarding diet. Your digestive tract digests food, right? So food would have to be a factor! But following the elimination diet has taught me that because I don't have diabetes or heart disease or high cholesterol or high blood pressure or a weight problem, I have historically not thought much about what I put into my body. I mostly ate plants, but I also didn't think twice about a donut here and there, or a latte on the way home from work to give me an afternoon boost. People bring leftover cake to work. I don't have time to make breakfast, so I grab an egg sandwich on the way. It all kind of adds up when you aren't really thinking about it. And food was feeding a lot of emotional cravings, as well as physical ones. It's a nice exercise in mindfulness to be forced to seek non-food comfort practices.

Last week, I didn't get enough sleep. I've tried to improve my sleep habits, since a year and a half of severe and chronic sleep deprivation (fussy infant + working mom = sleep disaster) really took its toll on me. However, in staying up a little too late for 3 nights in a row reminded me that even a "perfect" diet, will not be effective if I don't get enough rest.

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and I'm declaring that 33 will be the year I get enough sleep every night. Whatever else happens with this diet, whatever I decide to eat or not eat, my next experiment is to see what happens when I actually sleep when tired, instead of always powering through.


Toddler Backpacking Round 2

We went backpacking again last weekend. This time we visited the 653 Shelter on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. I don't know if you can technically call it backpacking when you walk less than a mile to a shelter, but you have to scale back expectations when one of your party has to be carried. We switched things up this time and M took the child carrier, which has some decent hauling capacity. In addition to carrying Laurel he had a couple of liters of water and her clothing and diapers, as well as some Audobon guides. I carried everything else, and let me tell you, it was no easy feat. My pack must have weighed 50 pounds. We ended up sleeping in the shelter, so we didn't really need the tent, but we took it, just in case. We tried sleeping in a "family sleeping bag", but this time, I brought a couple of extra blankets that I tucked around Laurel. It was a chilly night - it went down to around 32 degrees and was rainy, but we stayed warm because the shelters on the LHHT are stocked with split wood and have fireplaces in them. You really don't have to do big miles or seek stunning vistas with a two year old. Laurel was pretty happy hunting for sticks to start the fire, and playing around with our sleeping bags in the shelter. We found some boulders to climb on, and spotted a turkey vulture and a lot of trillium. We listened to a woodpecker. The only downside is that she won't go to sleep when it's light out, and it doesn't get light until kind of late.


I'll always remember the evenings that linger on pleasantly, while we wait for it to cool down before we go to bed. Street noises filtering in through open windows and the whir of fans in the background. Why do people turn on their air conditioners so early, and rob themselves of the feeling of being hot, of moving slow, of pouring extra glasses of ice water and sweat on the brow? We admired the rhododendrons in full bloom on the way home from daycare yesterday, and stopped at the water fountain to refill our bottles and chat with the guys who mow the Bowling Green. I work in a windowless room, and arrive before the sun fully rises, so I'm always surprised when I walk out of school after the dismissal bell and feel the heat enveloping my body. It reminds me of Phoenix, a feeling of being caressed, even at midnight, in the dark.

There are so many seasons changing right now...a birthday approaching, the end of the school year, the solstice on its way. I like the physical reminder of change that comes with suddenly hot weather.


Phase 2

I'm on day 17 or so of the elimination diet and I started reintroducing foods. I started with lemons and noticed no poor effects. My next food was supposed to be tamari, but I swapped that out for red wine, because I read the red wine has pre-biotics, which are enzymes and things that your pro-biotics (or good gut flora) like to munch on.

Well, who am I kidding? I just like wine, plus my friends were coming over. I did not notice any effects of the wine, but I did stay up until midnight, which is very late for someone whose alarm goes off at 5am and then commences to teach algebra to cranky teenagers at 7am.  So, perhaps I will try another glass of wine with an early bedtime and see what happens.

I've been mostly eating yams, quinoa, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, kale and pears in the form of green smoothies, beets, carrots and adzuki beans. Oh, and sauerkraut...I've been heaping that on top of all my meals. I also have been drinking coconut milk. I find that I have to eat quite frequently to keep up my energy. I don't have a scale, so I'm not sure if I've gained or lost weight, but I definitely feel less puffy and bloated.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that I was not eating nearly as many vegetables as a vegetarian ought to...most of my go-to convenience foods were grain, dairy and egg based.

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start on the phase 3  foods, beginning with bananas. I will probably try to go a full 6 weeks gluten-free because I think that's the minimum amount of time I would need to notice a difference.