Monthly Archives: March 2011

Praying For Sleep Among The Walking Dead

They say your spirituality grows with motherhood. That’s true. I find myself praying a lot more these days, even in public places. The prayer usually starts out like: Dear God, Please let Ethan stay asleep.

Amen.

Recently I said this prayer over and over again while toting my little man snuggled in his car seat as we ventured to renew my driver’s license. It had expired the previous week and in all the baby hubbub, I’d forgotten to get it renewed.

I walked into the “driver’s service facility” only about an hour after it opened and it looked like a scene out of The Walking Dead. It was eerily quiet and some people had that filmy gray coloring that zombies so love to sport along with the vacant look in their eyes. Other people had clothes that were so crumpled, it was clear they’d slept in them. Just how long had these folks been here? It just was 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday.

The zombie behind the counter assigned me a number and nodded to my still-sleeping Ethan that there was no need to worry, I shouldn’t have to wait long. I wondered if I had a panicked Please-Stay-Asleep look on my face.

Sitting there, rocking the carseat to maintain his unconsciousness, I looked around. One woman had on hooker heels (you know the clear kind) and smeared red lipstick. One dude with matted hair was slouched so low, I couldn’t tell where the chair began and he ended. Don’t these people know they’ll probably have to have their picture taken and it’ll be immortalized in their wallets for at least four years? That’s when it hit me. Crap. I too look like crap!

I frantically searched my purse for make-up. Foundation, lipstick, mascara _ none of it could be found. I was considering trying to work some magic with one of Logan’s crayons when I found my MAC lip liner. That and some chapstick were better than nothing.

Then my number was called. I glanced down at Ethan. Yep, still asleep. Thank you, God. The beefy, tattooed Neo-Nazi behind the counter pleasantly asked me for my paperwork. He was nice enough not to bat an eye when I lied about my weight. I prayed he wouldn’t send me to have my picture taken, but no such luck. I schlepped over to the picture-taking holding pen.

I waited for my close up, and briefly considered striking a Janis Dickinson-like pose.

But wisely decided against it. The click of the camera woke my boy. Dang, and I almost made it.

When I took my wailing baby out of the carseat, the holding pen of zombies began to say “awwww” and I believe I heard some coo-ing too. The Poindexter behind the counter turned to Ethan and said: “I’m sorry Mister but you’re not old enough to get your license.”

The holding pen howled with laughter. I politely smiled, calmed Ethan down and grabbed my new license from the clerk. Praise God, the picture wasn’t too scary after all.

The Blubber Battle: My 30 Days With Jillian Michaels

“This is you time baby. Make. The. Most. Of.It.”   -Jillian Michaels.

Not too long ago, Jillian Michaels asked me to hang out with her. She said if I gave her quality time for a month, she’d make a difference. Aiiiiight. Maybe it wasn’t like that really, but I did spend about 25 minutes with her each day for 30 days straight and she was right, I noticed a difference.

I just completed Jillian’s 30 Day Shred. It’s an exercise DVD that I’d do every day and it’s the same work out for ten days, and then you move up a level. Though I’m not “shredded,” I’m better than I was before. I lost about 5 pounds and 4 inches.

Unfortunately those aren’t “Biggest Loser” type numbers, but I’m telling myself: slow and steady wins the race. I’m breastfeeding and watching that my calories don’t dip too low so Ethan can still have enough to eat. For some nursing women it seems the pounds simply melt away at lightening speed, while for others of us, not so much, at least not without affecting our supply.

The big thing I gained from the workout was confidence from my commitment to not miss a single day for 30 days, regardless of my kids’ or my hubby’s needs. I prioritized Me. There were some workouts that took place right before bed, others I had to hit pause while I got Ethan back to sleep. And his big brother, Logan, even joined me in a handful of workouts.

There also were days where my whine gave my 3-year-old a good run for his money: “I don’t wanna wooooorrrrkkkk ouuuutttt. I’m tttiiiirrreeeedd.”  But then I’d do it. Very grudgingly.

The main thing is I finished it and I’m much stronger. I can see whispers of my pre-baby belly. I love that I can easily do 15 “man” push-ups now and impressive moves while holding a plank pose.

Next up for me in my Blubber Battle is to focus on running since I’ve got the Shamrock Shuffle in a couple weeks. Earlier in my 30 Day challenge, I’d do Jillian’s workout and then go on a run. That proved to be too time consuming, so the last two weeks I have been all Jillian.

After my race, I’m considering doing another 30 Days with my girl Jillian, maybe her new Ripped in 30 DVD. We’ll see.

Being Brown in the Suburbs: No Burnt Crosses, But A Few Cross Looks

I should have known by the look in his eyes. The middle-aged white man looked at my chocolate self, then to my light-skinned baby and back to me. “Excuse me,” he said walking closer. “But is his father white or Asian?”

The color of us by Erica Lynn Hang.

I paused. Did he just ask me that? Here? In the frozen-food section of the grocery store?

Inhale. Exhale. “He’s white,” I said, feeling my blood rise. Gathering courage to stand my ground for whatever racial onslaught was to come, I said louder, bolder: “He’s Norwegian.”

“Oh.” He responded and walked toward me, fumbling to pull something out of his pocket. Egad, what is he going to do? You know folks are crazy.

“The reason I’m asking is because this is my family.” He pulls out a picture of himself, a round black woman and two very tall biracial boys all smiling in their Sunday best. “The oldest is in college and this one’s in middle school.”

I melt.

“Let me show you my other son.” I whip out my phone and pull up a picture of Logan with his wildly curly hair and caramel skin.

“Do you guys live here? Are they treating you OK?” He looks very concerned, it’s clear he cares. By “they” he means the community, our predominantly white, moderately conservative Chicago suburb. He’s not asking me if there’s been crosses burnt on our lawns, but if we’re treated well, like equals, genuinely received by our neighbors.

We do like it here and generally have had no issues. Unlike our previous suburb, where everyone at the grocery store from the cashiers to the customers were routinely rude to me. At the time I chalked it up to grumpy people, then one day I took my husband shopping with me. It was a marked difference, people smiled when they greeted you in the aisle, asked you if you needed any help, there was no hostility. I was shocked.

After that trip with him, I told him he needed to come to the grocery store with me each time because I didn’t want to be treated so rudely. It sucked because it felt a bit like we had the Black Codes in the grocery store, where I needed a white person to vouch for me.

(There was also a bit of that Saturday Night Live episode where Eddie Murphy went undercover as a white man. On the bus, after all the black people were gone, he watched how a party broke out among the whites.)

That grocery store experience was a few years ago and in another suburb, where we live now it is better. And this time in the store, this white man was telling me how he and his wife did have some struggles several years ago, but that his kids enjoyed the good schools. “They are good at the schools,” he said nodding meaningfully. As if to reassure me that it won’t matter to the other kids that my boys are biracial.

Ethan started to squawk and I needed to finish up my shopping, so we said goodbye. I wished him a nice day.

Smiling, I walked away thinking I should have known by the look in his eyes. When this white man looked at me and my family, he saw his own.

The Blubber Battle: Oven Roasted Veggies Recipe

This is sooooo good and easy. I’m a closet finicky eater so I like that I can alter this Tosca Reno recipe by taking out some of the veggies that I don’t like. (i.e. beets) You of course could add more vegetables to this dish.

“Oven roasting brings out the flavor of vegetables like no other cooking method. The best part of oven roasting is its ease. ”

– Tosca Reno

Ingredients:

  • 2 large spanish onions or sweet onions cut into chunks
  • 4 large sweet carrots cut into chunks
  • 2 peeled turnips cut into chunks
  • ½ pound of brussell sprouts
  • 6 small beets peeled
  • 8-10 small potatoes (not idaho or russet bakers)
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375. Peel all vegetables. Quarter potatoes. Toss all vegetables in oil, rosemary, minced garlic and marjoram. Arrange vegetables in a large roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.

Uncover and turn the vegetables with a large spoon. Add salt and pepper and roast at 425 for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are thoroughly cooked but the edges are not burned.

*You can learn more about my blubber battle here.

From Technotronic to Tupac: I Love The 90s

Did I tell you that my new car is a time machine? No, Doc didn’t let me borrow the Delorean. But I’ve been back to the 90s: Cross Colours. Daria. The Chronic. My car even Smells Like Teen Spirit.

I’m talking about my new satellite radio. When we bought my car weeks ago, it came with a three-month free subscription. And I must say, I’m in love. I’ve been listening to all things great (and not so great) from the 1990s, the decade of my wonder years.

I love how music can take you back to priceless moments.

Wondering what Prince was talking about when he said 23 positions in a one night stand. (After all the night stand by my bed only had one position.)

Listening to the QuietStorm on the radio to see who dedicated Keith Sweat’s “I’ll Give All My Love To You” to her boyfriend.

Whipping out my air guitar for the passionate riffs on the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Give It Away Now.”

Also, Boys II Men’s” End of the Road” was our song and by “our,” I mean my high school sweetheart and me. Who knew how prophetic those four harmonizing boys could be?

Loving “Baby Got Back” because there was finally a song that praised my, ahem, asset.

Sitting in my room, proud that I could spit all the lyrics from Tupac’s Me Against the World album.

Skipping a last minute cram session for my college biology final to attend the Fugees concert at the Blue Note. I got a B on the test, but the concert was so good I would have taken the C.

And Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna” used to make me think a lot about my relationship and indeed I left the one I was with and started a new relationship with my now husband.

I love the music from the 90s, and listening to it the radio each day has been like getting reacquainted with an old friend.

Getting Baby Ready For the Big Leagues

Want your daughter to be the next Serena Williams or Michelle Wie? You’re not alone. Many parents are enrolling their kids in sporting programs earlier and earlier, some as soon as four months of age. So how young is too young?

Some say there’s no such thing. Even if parents aren’t swinging for the bleachers of professional sports, they figure if it can help their kid get even the slightest edge over the competition, what’s the harm? No one wants their little Johnny to be picked last to join the team.

I think it’s great to introduce kids to all kinds of new things, but touting a technically correct way to hold a tennis racket to a 6-month-old is a bit much. The same with soccer programs for kids who can’t yet walk.

This is when people get too carried away in the parental push to give our kids the best and to be the best. Sporting programs for babies aren’t guaranteed to give your kids a head start and some doctors worry it could mean there will be even younger kids with overuse injuries.

That being said I think organized sports are great, they get you physically active, help with socialization, self-discipline, confidence, etc. etc.  Logan’s in swimming lessons and last summer he went to a week long Chicago Fire soccer camp with his dad. He loved it so much we signed him up for Lil’ Kickers, another soccer program that starts next week.

In these programs, there’s no pressure to grow up and bend it like Beckham. It’s organized chaos of flying mini soccer balls where the only goal is to have fun. And isn’t that supposed to be the point?

The Blubber Battle: Clean-Eating Canadian Stew Recipe

I’m trying to cook a new recipe each week and I’ll share the good ones here. Though I think of stew as something you make in the dead of winter, I decided to try this one, it seemed easy and one that worked well for leftovers, which is an essential part of my meal planning.

I made this with Logan by my side because he loves helping out in the kitchen. In Tosca Reno’s book she stresses the need for canned potatoes in this or the potatoes would be too mushy. I followed her directions and the stew turned out perfectly.

I also found that not only is this fun to make with Logan, but with a glass of Shiraz as well.

Canadian Stew
The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. lean beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 leeks, whites and light green only, cut into chunks and well rinsed
3 or 4 medium sized cooking onions, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 – 10 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
1 – 10 oz. can small potatoes
Several cloves garlic
4 T. olive oil
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 cup low-sodium, low-fat chicken stock
1 cup light beer

Directions:

1. Cut meat into 1-inch cubes.  Place whole-wheat flour, salt, ground black pepper, oregano, and basil in a large plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake the contents so they mix.  Now place the cubed meat in the container and shake until coated.

2. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven heat the oil and saute the garlic and onions until soft.  Add remaining vegetables, except canned potatoes, and cook 5 minutes longer.

3. Gently remove cubed and seasoned meat from container and add to the cooking vegetables.  Cook until meat is browed.  You will notice the mixture is getting sticky.  This is caused by the flour seasoning on the meat.  When it gets too sticky, add the chicken stock and the light beer.

4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Stir the stew until the sauce becomes evenly smooth.  Now add canned, drained potatoes.  Cook over low heat for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.