Moving Forward

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving” — Albert Einstein

After 10 years of living in this house – the first house we bought together – Jody, the kids and I are packing up and moving on to our next home.

I’ve had a few recurring complaints about this house – namely that the kitchen is too small (I’ve nicknamed it “tiny kitchen”) – but I am so grateful for the time we’ve spent and the memories we’ve made here.

This is the first house Jody and I lived in when we moved to Colorado. Its the house we came home to after we got married. This is the house to which we brought Ava home from the hospital. Its the house where Ava had so many firsts – first steps, first words – and where she’s grown into an amazing 6-year-old. This is the house where Julian was born in our bedroom, at the foot of our bed. Its the house where Julian had so many firsts as well including taking his first breath. He’s now a vivacious 3.5-year-old. This is the house where we have memories of watching baby birds learn how to fly, finding snakes, growing a small garden, playing, and swinging on the tire swing all in the backyard. This is the house where Jody and I have begun to learn more about ourselves (through therapy, etc.) and what we need to do to improve our quality of life – that we can become better, healthier people.

This has been a house of laughter and tears, victories and learning experiences, frustrations and uncertainty, but most of all, love.

We’ve visited with the sellers of our new house a few times over the past week and as they reflected on their house and the memories they created there with their family over the past 17 years, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic with them and even got a little teary-eyed at the closing this week. They told us they feel good about selling to us. That we remind them a lot of themselves – moving into the house with young kids as they did many years ago. I think they see the sparkle in our eyes as we look at the house and begin to envision our family in it. They know that the swing-set they put in in the backyard, that has sat dormant for the past several years as their children grew too old for it, is going to get a new lease on life. They know that I’m excited to get settled into the large (to me) kitchen they remodeled. They know that I can’t wait to get my fruits and vegetable plants in the ground in the garden they used to cultivate. They know Jody has hopes of building a wood-shop in the backyard someday. They know that we are excited to move in and make it our home and create our own memories at that house, just as they have theirs.

I feel very good about this move.

We are at a point in our lives where moving forward and making a change like this – relocating to a new home – feels symbolic of the path on which we already are.

I don’t expect moving to change our lives dramatically, but I feel like this move signifies us moving forward with our lives and choosing to try to break the patterns of our pasts. We are forging ahead. I know there will still be rough patches and issues – who doesn’t have issues? – but as we learn to react to things differently and develop healthy habits, I feel like moving away from this old house is a good thing. Its like we’re leaving the past behind and opening the doors of new possibilities and adventures.

I’m ready to start the next chapter in our lives. Moving forward.

“Home is where our story begins.” — Author Unknown

Photo credit: Granny’s Basement

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No Zoo For You: Confession of an Anxious Mommy

Last week when I picked up my 3.5 year old son Julian from preschool, his teacher Miss G mentioned that she’d like to take the four children in the program on a field trip to the zoo or children’s museum the following week to celebrate the last day of school. I was immediately taken aback. My baby riding in a car on the expressway to a destination nearly an hour away with someone other than my husband or me? My heart skipped a beat.

I tried to play it cool because logically I knew that Julian would probably be just fine. Also it’s not like I don’t trust this teacher. She was Ava’s preschool teacher since Ava was three and became Julian’s teacher this year as well. She’s an amazing person and I have no doubt that she would take great care to protect my child on the field trip. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this just didn’t feel right. (It didn’t help that I’d recently watched a 7 minute video of horrific car wrecks that someone posted on Facebook. Why do I do this to myself?)

I emailed a friend who also has children at the preschool to see how she felt about it (and confirm whether or not I was an overreacting freak). She said she’d let the teacher take her kids on other outings before and she was OK with it. But she said she understood how I felt and encouraged me to tell Miss G if I was uncomfortable with it.

I thought about it some more and figured I’d just muscle through it. “Julian would be fine,” I kept telling myself. “I completely trust Miss G with him.”

I saw Miss G at the May Pole Celebration this Sunday and we were talking more about the impending field trip. I must have seemed a bit reluctant because she suddenly said, “I’m sorry, I should have asked you if you were OK with this. Are you?” I confessed. I told her I wanted to be OK with it, but the truth was that I wasn’t completely OK. She offered to let me go along with them, but due to prior commitments that day, I just couldn’t do it. I told her I would be OK and that the field trip was fine. Apparently I lied.

The next day my anxiety disorder – that has been for the most part under control for almost a year – kicked into high gear. My throat felt tight, like it was closing up. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with, as it was one of my many anxiety systems when I was in the thick of the illness. I knew better than to get freaked out about it, even though it’s a very unpleasant feeling, and instead tried to figure out what could be causing it. Surprisingly, the field trip was not the first thing that came to mind. As you may know, we are in the process of selling our house and buying a new one – both of which are causing my stress level to be higher than normal. So I figured it was the house stuff getting to me even though nothing in particular had happened in the last few days.

I tried not to dwell on the anxiety, but the field trip must have been in the back of my mind because out of the blue I decided to ask Twitter (my favorite sounding board) at what age they let their child ride with another person (outside of family) for the first time and if they were nervous about it. I got a lot of feedback. Most responded that it was very hard the first time. Others said they hadn’t let their child ride with another person yet. Others said they do it and it’s fine.

It made me realize that even when my 5 year old was scheduled to go on a field trip with her kindergarten class (also to a destination nearly an hour away), my husband and I were OK with her going, but he was going to chaperone, thus ride on the bus with her and the class and be there for the whole trip. She ended up coming down with the flu and didn’t go anyway, but it made me think, “If I’m not OK with my 5-year-old going on a trip an hour away from me without one of her parents, why would I be OK with my 3-year-old doing it?”

I decided to talk it over with Jody Monday evening and we came to the conclusion that it was totally OK for us to NOT be OK with Julian going on a field trip an hour away when he’s 3 years old. If it doesn’t feel right and is giving me severe anxiety, then it’s not worth it, even if it does make me *that* overprotective parent.

I emailed Miss G and explained how I felt and even filled her in a bit on my anxiety disorder. I apologized for ruining the field trip, but said that I hoped they could still go somewhere nearby to celebrate the last day. She graciously responded and said they could walk to the nearby park instead and that she’d do the zoo trip the following day (on a day Julian doesn’t go to school). I was relieved.

I know there will come a day when I have to let my kids go, but for now I’m OK with the fact that this wasn’t the right time. I’m actively working on my issues again (I found a new therapist) and in time I will be able to continue to work through some of my fears. If right now my mental well-being is more important than a field trip to the zoo, so be it. I have to trust myself and do what works for me and my family. I am thankful I’m now at a point in my life where I can recognize where my fears are coming from and address them. I will get there, eventually.

–Progress, not perfection. —

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Kourtney Kardashian: Inspiring Women with her Zen-like Childbirth?

Two weeks ago I wrote about the way childbirth is generally portrayed, even mocked, in popular culture and how that often negatively colors women’s beliefs about birth. Sunday, however, on the season finale of the E! network reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, surprisingly, amazingly labor and birth were shown in a largely positive light. In the episode, which had a record 4.8 million viewers, Kourtney Kardashian, 30, calmly gave birth to her first child Mason Dash Disick (born on Dec. 14, 2009).

I have to admit I don’t actually watch the Kardashians, but thanks to Jezebel, I was able to watch some clips from the episode. (Go watch. I’ll wait.) My friend Denise, who blogs at Eat Play Love, told me that she saw the whole episode and said, “I have to admit for the K-women coming off as such primadonnas the episode/birth was shown in a great way. I was shocked.”

Instead of the typical Hollywood water-breaking all over the floor in one big “sploosh!” followed by the frantic Oh-my-God-I’m-freaking-out-and-have-to-get-to-the-hospital-RIGHT-NOW, after Kourtney’s water broke and was shown(!) slowly trickling out onto the floor, she was totally calm, did some laundry, said she needed to shave, took a shower and put on make-up all before going to the hospital. A reality TV show actually showing reality? Wow!

Then there was the birth scene at the hospital, which appeared very serene. Kourtney was surrounded by her family who all looked on in awe as baby Mason was born. She appeared very calm, even zen-like. Once the baby was half way out, the doctor asked Kourtney if she wanted to grab him and she did. She reached down between her legs and pulled her baby right out of her vagina and onto her chest. It was amazingly peaceful and really quite beautiful.

Of course that had to be followed by some commentary from her sister Khloe saying, “that’s not normal.” But uh, yeah, actually it is. That’s what normal birth can look like.

Photo credit: The Unnecesarean

I can’t find any information about whether Kourtney received an epidural or gave birth unmedicated, but she certainly looks very zen in the video. She said in this interview about labor, “It was surprisingly easy and just an incredible experience. I always thought your first is supposed to be really hard, but it was easy.”

Regardless of whether or not she had an epidural, the fact that E! showed (millions!) what a normal, peaceful birth can look like is seriously huge, especially when you consider the demographic watching this show. According to this LA Times article, “Kardashian viewers tend to be single, college-educated women with no children, white-collar jobs and annual salaries of more than $60,000.” Keeping Up With The Kardashians “is the highest-rated series on cable among women ages 18 to 34.”

The Unnecesarean had this to say:

Kourtney Kardashian and E! showing a generation of young women someone reaching down and pulling their baby out of their vagina was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles has gained a reputation as the celebrity c-section center, but there’s some mother-friendly stuff going on in the clips on Jezebel.

I didn’t watch the whole episode, but I smiled at the clip of her water breaking. When do you ever see that televised beyond the ridiculous images of actors having a gallon of water dumped between their legs, then instantly doubling over with contractions and being rushed down the hall to L&D on a gurney?

Momotics said Kourtney Kardashian renewed her “faith in birth.”

I was SO impressed to see Kourtney so calm, and cool while giving birth to her son Mason who was born in December. It seems like Hollywood has had a huge rash of scheduled cesareans, inductions, and over all just horribly medicalized births and this was just a huge refresh to the Hollywood natural birth stigma.

Carla Fran from Millicent and Carla Fran calls Kourtney “awesome.”

I cannot believe, I repeat, I cannot believe that the Kardashians are paving the way for positive images of childbirth. Last night’s finale showed Kourtney Kardashian going into labor, and pretty much backing up what doulas, Rikki Lake, and your friendly neighborhood midwife have been saying all along.

This finale is tremendous because of the audience the show has. If young girls see pop icons like Kourtney Kardashian having this kind of birth experience, their expectation of the event in their own lives is changed. I hope an entire generation of people saw this and thought “I didn’t know it could be like that.”

It would seem that’s exactly what some women thought. Here are a few of the comments on the Jezebel blog:

  • Kali Mama: “While am all for freedom of choice and choosing your own birth plan, big props for girlfriend not being too posh to push. No elective c-sections or nothing.”
  • Doyouloveit: “For years I’ve been chanting that I will get a C-section if I ever procreate, ‘Knock me completely out! I want to wake up like it’s Christmas morning with a baby under the tree!’
    But wow! Kourtney was really inspiring! Why can’t it always be shown this beautifully? Great documentary film making, Keeping Up With The Kardashians!”
  • Lilspitfire: “I am not a big fan of reality TV but the way they showed childbirth in this episode was nothing but positive.”
  • La Madrugada: “Okay, as someone who’s going to give birth to her first kid in a month and a half, I have to say, this is AWESOME. I’m not a huge fan of this show, but seeing a woman laughing and relaxed while in labor is extremely cool.”
  • Gra: “I have never given birth and therefore had NO IDEA that this was even possible. Its weird to realize that everything I know about labor and birth is based on what I’ve seen in the movies.”
  • Hotpants McGee: “It’s so crazy to say this, but I think I learned something from a Kardashian! Kourt was AMAZING. I had no idea you could just pull it out! I still can’t believe it. She could have just stayed home and done it all by herself!”

Yep, the Kardashians are changing the way women view birth – for the better. Who woulda thunk it?

Cross-posed on BlogHer

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Mint (candy cane) chocolate chip cookies recipe

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Yule or whatever it is that you celebrate. 🙂 We had a good holiday here in the Crunchy Domestic Goddess house. The kids enjoyed their presents and even playing with the packaging. There’s nothing wrong with upcycling your cardboard. 😉 In addition to the masks, Ava built a cardboard house for Strawberry Shortcake and Lemon Meringue.

I got a new set of stainless steel pots and pans and am happy to finally rid myself of the old Teflon (non-stick) set (that I had no idea was potentially bad for us when I got it many years ago). I also got a beautiful enameled cast iron pot. I could be contentedly busy in the kitchen for hours now and may be on the lookout for some new recipes 🙂

That brings me to the point of this post – a new recipe! If you are like me, you might have some candy canes hanging around (literally) and may be looking for a use for them (other than stuffing them into your mouth). I was inspired to come up with this recipe after Jennifer mentioned she and her daughter had experimented with candy cane cookies.

They are delicious and will be consumed before you know it! You might want to stock up on some candy canes so you can make them at other times of the year too, though I think substituting peppermint candy for the candy canes would work just as well.

Mint (candy cane) chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (12-oz. pkg.)
  • 1 cup candy canes ground finely in food processor (about 10-12 candy canes)

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and mint extracts in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, followed by candy canes. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
Please note: Due to the melting candy canes, these cookies tend to spread a bit. Make sure you leave adequate space surrounding each cookie on the baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!

I’d post a picture of the cookies, but we ate them all (and gave some to the kids’ teachers). I may be making another batch soon though and will add a pic if I do. 😉

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Dear Target – a thank you letter

It’s no secret that I’ve harped on Target in the past. First there were the epidural maternity shirts, then there was the incident where the police were called on a breastfeeding mother. This weekend, however, Target did something that has me very thankful, and while I already informally expressed my thanks to them on Twitter, I wanted to do so a little more formally here.

It happened on Saturday – the last weekend before Christmas – when Jody and I decided to take the kids to Target so they could each pick out a present to give to the other. I thought it would help them learn the joy of giving, rather than just receiving on Christmas.

Before we went into the store, we emphasized that the store would be very busy with lots of people and the kids were to stay with us at all times. (You can see where this is headed, can’t you?)

Jody and I each took a kid and headed for the toy section as the kids searched for the perfect gift for their sibling (and got distracted with what they wanted for themselves at least 20 times). At one point, I turned a corner and glanced behind me with 3-year-old Julian nowhere to be seen. My heart jumped into my throat as I quickly retraced my steps and found him just around the corner playing with a toy. Whew!

Eventually, the sibling gifts were chosen.

I wanted to buy some art supplies for the kids, so Jody took the kids and planned to let them pick out something for me while I shopped for them.

I found what I wanted and began moseying around the store to find them. That’s when I saw Jody, alone, looking frantic as he dodged in and out of maternity clothes racks.

“Where are the kids??”

Jody told me he couldn’t find Julian and had told Ava to stay in one spot with the cart while he looked for Jules.

My first thought was to go to the guest services desk and let them know Julian was missing. The more people looking for him, especially on such a busy day, the better. Jody, however, apparently had the same thought at the same time and beat me to the desk.

I ditched my cart (and my purse – totally wasn’t thinking) and started looking for Julian myself.

Within seconds, crimson-clad Target employees were combing the aisles in force. Within two minutes, an employee asked me if I was the mom with the lost child (was the crazy “Oh my God, where is my son?” look in my eye that obvious?) and said they had found him and they would bring him to guest services.

Thank. God.

As I quickly walked to find Jody and tell him Julian had been found, I heard another employee say, “Oh! They are chasing after him!” And I could picture Julian screaming and crying and running away from the people who were trying to help him. Poor buddy.

I ran over to where Jody and Ava were already headed and met up with them to find a crying Julian safe in Jody’s arms. I kissed and hugged him and was so relieved to see he was OK. We let him know how scared we were that he was lost and it was obvious how scared he was too. (He had apparently run away from Jody looking for me when he got lost.)

It was about that time that I remembered that I’d ditched my cart with my purse in it. I was relieved to find it was all right where I left it.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that our story had a happy ending.

Thank you, local Target employees, for springing into action so quickly and helping my husband and me find our son.

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What To Do If Your Child Is Missing:

If your child ever goes missing in a store, notify the front desk or an employee ASAP. Most stores have a “Code Adam” procedure (named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of John Walsh, who was abducted from a Sears department store in Florida in 1981 and later found murdered) that alerts the employees to look for the missing child. If the child is not located within 10 minutes, the police are called.

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10 Simple Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving

First there was 10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween. Now here are 10 Simple Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving and reduce your impact on the earth. Pick one or two or do them all. Every little bit helps. 🙂

1. Be aware of the amount of packaging in the foods you purchase. For example, instead of buying a can of pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie, buy a pie pumpkin. Instead of buying a ready-made pie crust, make your own from scratch.

2. Just say no to environmentally destructive factory farms. Buy a free-range Heritage turkey or go meatless.

3. Buy organic. Buy local. Whenever you can, buy organic foods. Organic foods aren’t just better for your health, they are better for the earth and animals as well. If you can buy local foods and reduce your meal’s carbon footprint and support your local economy, all the better.

4. Use a cloth tablecloth and cloth napkins. No disposable paper products.

5. Use real plates, glasses and silverware. If you don’t have enough place settings for all of your guests, ask them to bring their own. Again, the trick is not to use any disposable paper/plastic products.

6. Centerpiece. Use things from around the house to make a one-of-a-kind Thanksgiving centerpiece. Have your kids help! Or if you must buy flowers, make sure they are organic.

7. Eat your leftovers. Make sure you put away leftovers in a timely manner into the refrigerator or freezer. If you don’t think you will eat them all, send some home with your guests.

8. Compost your table scraps.

9. Recycle anything that can be recycled.

10. Be thankful. Don’t forget to express your gratitude for all that you have, including the earth.

Related posts:

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Running and Recovery – Just for Today

About eight months ago I had a turning point in my life. Instead of hiding from and burying my fears – a trait I’d gotten very good at over the years – I began to learn to face them head on. In addition to therapy and medication, I recently discovered two more things I want and need to do to take better care of myself – the first is getting regular exercise and the second is attending a 12-step program (for friends and families of problem drinkers).

Photo courtesy of chriskoning_gr
Photo courtesy of chriskoning_gr

Knowing that exercise would be beneficial to both my physical and mental health, I decided to start the Couch to 5k program – walking/running sessions of 20 to 30 minutes three times a week, which allow you to work up to running a 5K at the end of two months. (I figure if I write about it I’ll be more likely to follow through with it, accountability and all that.)

I should stop here to say I am not a runner. I’ve never been very fond of running and recall dreading having to run “the mile” in gym class my freshman year of high school. I developed a pretty nasty case of shin splints (probably from running in Keds, but c’est la vie). However, recently I’ve been inspired by several of my friends, also in their 30s, who have taken up running. Heather and Nicole both just ran their first 5k – The Race for the Cure. Alison has also taken up running. Julie recently confessed her “drug” of choice in dealing with depression – exercise – and she ran a half marathon this past weekend. Then there’s Sonja my triathlete friend who’s ran, biked and swam in more races than I can count.

While running isn’t something I usually enjoy, I want to give this a try, a real try.

I did my first session early Sunday morning – a five minute brisk walk followed by alternating between running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for 20 minutes. The weather was about perfect, sunny and warm, but not too warm, and it felt good to get out of the house alone, doing something good for myself. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible.

As I ran my thoughts wandered to the 12-step meeting I recently attended. I thought about the parallels between running and recovery – both my recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and my recovery of being an adult child of a dysfunctional family and the relationships I’ve had with addicts over the years. Both running and recovery require patience. Both running and recovery require perseverance. Both running and recovery can be overwhelming at times, but you have to focus on one day at a time, one run at a time, even if it’s just for 60 seconds.

I did my second running session on Wednesday morning. It was the complete opposite of Sunday, rainy and cold. I wore my jacket with the hood up and gloves on to keep my hands warm. I stayed pretty toasty except for my legs, which froze. (I’ve since learned of base layer tights which I am going to have to buy, especially if I’m going to be running through the winter.) My glasses were covered in rain drops and fogged up as my body temperature rose. There were lots of fallen wet leaves and branches on my path. Again, it made me think about my road to recovery. Some days the sun is shining and the path is clear and everything seems right on target and other days there are clouds and fog, it’s cold and the obstacles on my path make it easy to lose my footing.

Whether I am running or working on bettering myself mentally and emotionally, the challenges will always be there. It’s not always easy. It’s often hard work. I can’t prepare for every obstacle, but I can learn to let go of my desire to control everything. I can go with the flow. I can do my best.

When I’m running, I try to concentrate only on getting through that particular 60 seconds of running. I don’t think about running a 5k in a few months. I don’t think about running for 10 minutes at a time or even 5 minutes at a time. I do my best to stay in the moment and focus on those 60 seconds. (It reminds me a lot of labor and giving birth actually.) Just like in my life, I can’t wonder what the future will hold, but I can live in the now.

There’s a daily meditation that’s part of the 12-step programs that begins “Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately (and in the past it would seem) and it really sums it all up for me. Yes, I want to be able to run a 5k someday, but just for today I will focus on getting through those 60 second intervals at a time. Yes, I want to be healthy emotionally and mentally someday and perhaps not need therapy or medication, but just for today I will stay present and do my best. Slow and steady wins the race.

Other women who have done or are working on the Couch to 5k (C25k):

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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Mile High Mamas Night Out (with fully-clothed swimming)*

*Alternately titled: When Mamas Go Wild

On Thursday night of last week, I joined Julie, Heather and Melissa for a drive down to the Warwick Hotel in Denver where we met up with more Boulder county bloggers Nicole and Alison and a whole lot of other Mile High Mamas (and an auntie) for a night of fun.

There was lots of mingling, eating, laughing and drinking wine tasting, all while supporting a good cause. Mile High Mamas teamed up with #GNO (Girls Night Out) Mom It Forward to support Office Max’s national initiative A Day Made Better to provide one million dollars in school supplies to teachers in need. Many of us brought school supplies to donate to the cause.

I saw many familiar faces, but met some new fabulous women too (like Chris, Megan, Melitsa, and Kellie).

After the party on the patio of the Randolf Restaurant officially ended, we were invited by the hotel staff to go see the pool up on the rooftop – the only rooftop pool in Denver. I don’t know if they realized they were asking for trouble when they extended that invitation or not. 😉

Once the mamas broke into their Charlie’s Angels poses, it all went downhill from there (or rather, that’s when the fun really began). Is this not the best pic evah?!

We decided to dip our toes into the warm water which soon turned to kicking and splashing.

Photo credit: Heather

And that’s when it happened. Aimee and Jyl were the first to JUMP INTO THE POOL (fully clothed, is there any other way? Oh yes, there is. Ask Julie and Alison about that. *wink*), followed by Heather (who was celebrating being cancer-free now!! Woohoo!) and Julie. Alison went in next, then after consulting Twitter who urged me to jump, I decided to step daintily down the ladder and went into the pool myself. I was greeted with lots of splashing. 😛


Photo credit: Greeblemonkey

More Charlie’s Angels and synchronized swimming ensued.

Finally, we got out and dried off (and turned back into proper ladies) and made our way down to the bar for some more chit-chat before heading home.

There’s no telling what a bunch of mamas will do when they get together. Next time, however, I’m bringing my bathing suit – just in case. Even with the heated seats (what a nice touch, Julie), that car ride home was still awfully wet! ;P

Thanks to Mile High Mamas, Amber, Barb, Jyl and the Warwick Hotel for a great night out I won’t soon forget. 🙂

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Urban fruit gleaning – harvesting homegrown produce for free

I’ve always been a fan of free stuff, especially when that “stuff” equals healthy food for my family. Although we aren’t struggling to put food on the table, I can still appreciate using food that would otherwise go to waste. It wasn’t until recently that I learned there is a phrase for collecting and using other people’s fruits and vegetables – it’s called urban fruit (or vegetable) gleaning.

So far this year I’ve gleaned 17 lbs. of zucchini and yellow squash, a large bowl of strawberries, a couple pounds of plums and several pounds of apples. Last year I gleaned a couple bowls of raspberries, cucumbers and enough concord grapes to make 20 jars of jelly.

Fruit and vegetable gleaning is a practice that has been going on for ages (traditionally, it is “the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest”), but it’s slowly moving into the spotlight recently as websites devoted to finding locations for giving or harvesting produce pop up across the Internet. Neighborhood Fruit, Veggie Trader and Fallen Fruit are three such sites.

  • Neighborhood Fruit allows users to both share and find fruit, vegetables and herbs, including the ability to register fruit trees on public ground or on your own property
  • Veggie Trader is “Your place to trade, buy or sell local homegrown produce”
  • Fallen Fruit – “‘Public Fruit’ is the concept behind Fallen Fruit, an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood.”

You can also list your excess produce on sites like Freecycle (where I scored 17 lbs. of squash this year) or Craigslist.

Why glean fruit?
Tressa Eaton from Serious Eats says, “Urban fruit-harvesting engages a community, makes community members aware of their own local (and often organic) food resources, provides an opportunity for neighbors to meet over the boughs of fruit trees, and brings up important questions about public space. And in this economy the price is right.”

There are some “rules” or rather proper etiquette involved in urban fruit gleaning.

  • Ask for permission first – While technically any fruit that is hanging over or fallen onto public property is legal to take (according to a report done on KCRW’s Good Food), it is best to ask the owner first. Last year my brother-in-law (with eight kids to feed) had no qualms about knocking on people’s doors asking them if they were going to use all of their apples, pears, or whatever and if not, did they mind if he picked some. Most people are happy to see the fruit go to good use. Or as Granola Mama says, “If you are like me and have a fruit tree in your backyard, reaping the harvest can be both exciting, and well… a major pain in the ass.” After trying to harvest as many of her plums as she could, she called the “gleaners” to pick the rest and take to a food bank, which I will talk about more below.
  • Don’t take more than you can use
  • Be friendly and appreciative
  • Optional: take some of whatever of your finished product is (jar of jam, apple sauce, muffins, etc.) back to the person who gave you their produce. It’s a nice way to say thank you.
  • It’s also suggested that you arrive on foot, bring a friend, share your food, and say hi to strangers

Other ways to give or receive produce:
Using sites like Neighborhood Fruit or Freecycle aren’t the only way to find homegrown produce in your area. At the office where my husband works, someone recently brought in some of their excess zucchini and sent out an office-wide email to let people know where it was in case they wanted it. Others thought it was a great idea and now people are regularly bringing in their extra fruits or vegetables. Just this past weekend we stopped by the office and found several pounds of apples and plums there for the taking.

Ask friends or relatives if they have any produce to share and vice versa, let them know if you have any.

I also recommend walking or riding your bike around your neighborhood and paying attention to the trees in the yards. On a bike ride yesterday I discovered 10 apple trees (several of them just loaded with fruit) within a few blocks of my house, and a couple pear trees in my nearby park. I’d been down these streets many times before, but without really looking for the trees, I never noticed them. I hope to stop by one or two of the houses to ask about gleaning some of their fruit. I’d love to pick some for my family and then donate a few bags to the food bank which brings me to my next point.

Donating to local food banks:
Another excellent option for getting rid of your unwanted produce is to take it to your local food bank. The Society of St. Andrew “is a grassroots hunger relief ministry that relies on volunteers to glean nutritious produce from farmers’ fields and orchards after harvest and deliver it to people in need across the United States.”

A post and video on Cooking Up A Story tells of an organization that harvests produce to help out the local community.

Portland Fruit Tree Project provides a valuable service that helps communities benefit directly from local resources. Fresh fruit that grows on neighborhood trees is collected by volunteers, and dropped off at local Food Banks for distribution to those in need. The great thing about this program is that in large part, the fruit would not be harvested or eaten by anyone—if not for fruit gleaning.

Whether you glean for yourself and your family or to give to others, remember the etiquette above, feel good about all of the food you are keeping from rotting on the ground, and have fun!

Related posts:
From Sarah Gilbert at Wallet Pop: Picking the parking strips: the gleaning fruit movement
From Kim Severson at NY Times: Neighbor, Can You Spare a Plum?
From Kyeann Sayer at TreeHugger: Fallen Fruit: Free Produce on Los Angeles Streets
From Katy at Good is in the Air: Three Ways You Can Donate Food by Gleaning
From Julia at Homesteading – Mindful Living in Minnesota: Apple Picking!

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Don’t miss a single CDG post, subscribe to my blog. And don’t forget to join the Ditch The Disposables Challenge if you haven’t yet. I will be giving away some things to help you with the challenge starting next week!