Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Strawberry Shortcake and my little monkey!

Menu Plan Monday - week of 10/31/11

Monday: Pizza (something easy for before trick-or-treating!)

Tuesday: Baked vegetable rice

Wednesday: Pasta with tomato sauce, salad, garlic bread

Thursday: Black bean and tomato quinoa, steamed broccoli

Friday: Sweet potato and lentil burritos

Saturday: : Tofu and veggie stir-fry, brown rice (this never got made last week)

Sunday: Something easy - leftovers, sandwich and a vegetable, etc.

I'm linking this to Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com.

Snow day

We had slushy, wet snow today - not a lot, but enough to keep us home all day and make me mutter about not having migrated far enough south when I decided to jump ship from upstate New York all those years ago. Snow in October? Not okay! The kids are going to freeze when they go trick or treating on Monday.

But we had a nice day. We had a lazy morning, then P made crepes with fruit for lunch. While Isaac was napping, P hung out with Nora and I cuddled up in bed with our kitty and took a nap. And then in the afternoon, we ventured outside to play.

Bundled up and ready to go.

Isaac liked stomping around in the slush.

Nora LOVES snow. I think she was bummed that we didn't get more.

We came back in when the freezing rain started smacking us in the face, but the kids enjoyed themselves for the short time we were out there. And then P's relatives came over and started helping him tile our basement (our carpet was destroyed by the flooding from Hurricane Irene), so hopefully within a few days, we'll be able to return all of the basement stuff to its rightful place and have room to walk and play in the rest of our house again. We've been waiting on them to be available for over a month now, so the snow served at least one useful purpose!

Now I'm just crossing my fingers that our poor pumpkins aren't too soggy to carve tomorrow...

Changing course

Earlier today, I started working on an application for admission to a master's program in social work. The program is at the same institution from which I received my undergraduate degree and has both full-time and part-time options (I am applying for the part-time program). I still need to write my personal statements, get my transcripts, and figure out what to do about recommendations, but at least the application is started. If I'm accepted - and more importantly, if I'm awarded enough financial aid to attend - I'd start in September 2012.

This is a big, big, BIG deal for me. I've hated being a lawyer from the get-go - during my summer associate job the summer after my second year of law school, I used to get a huge pit in my stomach as soon as the city skyline came into view on the drive to work. I've stuck it out for six years at this point - first at the firm, then on my own - but I'm pretty much positive that this is not the right way for me to spend the rest of my working life.

I've been resigned to being a miserable lawyer forevermore because I didn't really see a way out. I've been focused on teaching as a possible alternate career path, but teaching at the high school level doesn't pay enough and teaching at the college level would require a Ph.D that I don't have the time or money to get (Ph.D programs are generally full-time and we can't afford for me not to earn an income for the 6-8 years it would take to complete a degree).

P suggested social work as a good option for me and I kind of brushed it off at first - I'm not cut out for going into rough neighborhoods and confronting parents about how they're treating their kids! But then I started reading about social work as a profession and realized that there are a lot of social work jobs where that kind of thing isn't required. Reading about what social workers actually do, and the many different kinds of social work jobs that are out there... well, it started to seem like a good fit for me. I decided to apply to the program at my old college and see what happens. Maybe I'll get in or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll be able to afford it or maybe I won't. But just starting the application made me feel... lighter. It was like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders. It feels like there just might be a light at the end of this tunnel.

I think I'd be a pretty awesome social worker. And I actually think I'd enjoy it. I went to law school because I wanted to help people and only realized after the fact how little helping is involved in the practice of law. Social work would allow me to do a different, more personal kind of advocacy.

I'm excited about the potential here! I don't think I'm ready to tell people in real life about this, not just yet... but I'm ready to share with the anonymous bloggy world. That's a start, right?

My two amigos

I was in the bathroom earlier today when Isaac came bursting through the door. "Square!" he shouted at me, holding up the square piece from his shape puzzle. I congratulated him on being correct and then shooed him out... because I was in the bathroom and seriously, how many more years until I can pee in peace? A moment later he returned. "Circle!" he shouted, proudly holding up the circle piece.

I heard giggling coming from the hallway. "Show her this one," Nora whispered. Isaac scurried back out to the hall and I heard Nora whispering, "Tell her it's a triangle." Isaac reappeared, holding the triangle. "Angle!" he said. I heard Nora cracking up.

Annoyed as I was about being barged in on in the bathroom, I couldn't help smiling. Now that Isaac is getting older, the two kids are playing so well together. It's awesome. Nora likes to try to teach Isaac things and loves to read to him. Isaac will do pretty much anything Nora says. She adores her little brother and he thinks his big sister hung the moon. As P noted the other day, they're the best things that ever happened to each other.

And it's always been like that, pretty much. Nora was a couple weeks shy of three when Isaac was born and we were prepared for lots of jealousy, anger at the new baby, potty regression, etc. She never went through any of that, though. She was a little skeptical of him at first, but never outright hostile. And within a few weeks, she was his greatest protector and champion. Sure, there are moments when they both need attention at once and the one who doesn't get it first gets frustrated. And sure, they fight like cats and dogs sometimes, especially when Isaac barrels through the living room with his trucks and knocks over Nora's elaborate block cities or stuffed animal play scenes. But for the most part, they're really good friends. They obviously love each other to pieces. And they have a lot of fun together.

I love my two little sillyheads. I am a very lucky mommy.

Menu Plan Monday

Look at me... starting a new blog and then immediately getting too sick to post! I think I've kicked my multiple-day allergy/cold fiesta, so hopefully I'll actually be able to write this week.

Trying to eat more mindfully was a mixed bag while I wasn't feeling well, but I think I'm doing better at it than I was. Not perfect, but better. I'm trying not to let the imperfections overpower me and make me stop trying altogether. It's hard, but remembering the Great Stuffed Shells Incident of last week is helping me keep my resolve. I don't want my kids to end up battling food the way that I do.

On a semi-related note, I eat so much better when I take the time to actually plan my meals out each week, but I've been slacking on doing that lately. I want to get back into the habit, and when I saw a menu planning link-up on a blog this week, I thought that would be a good place to start. Accountability for myself + ideas from others = awesome. So here's my first effort at Menu Plan Monday (or in my case, Sunday... but late Sunday, in any event), which I'm linking up over at orgjunkie.com.

Monday: Veggie burgers, sweet potato fries

Tuesday: Fragrant chickpea stew, basmati rice, chapatis

Wednesday: Three-bean rice and vegetable skillet, biscuits

Thursday: Crockpot lentil soup, crusty bread

Friday: Ravioli with tomato sauce, steamed broccoli, garlic bread

Saturday: Tofu and veggie stir-fry, brown rice

Sunday: Something easy - leftovers, sandwiches and a vegetable, etc.

Teaching myself to eat well so that I can teach my kids to do the same

Last night at dinner, Nora ate a lot more than she usually does. We were having stuffed shells - one of her favorite foods - and she probably had 5 or 6 shells, along with a piece or two of garlic bread. Towards the end of the meal, she started complaining that her tummy hurt because she was too full. I reminded her that it's her job to fill up her belly when she's hungry, but also to stop eating when her hunger is all gone. She was still chomping on a piece of garlic bread as she complained about her stomachache, so I suggested that she save the rest of the garlic bread for another time. "But I want to eat it!" she exclaimed. I told her that we'd put it in a bag in the fridge with her name on it, so that everyone would know it was hers and nobody else would eat it. Reluctantly, she agreed to save it for later. Less than an hour later, she claimed that she was hungry again and asked to eat it. Not wanting to make it a Thing, I let her have it as her before-bed snack.

I'll admit it: I was pretty freaked out by this series of events. Nora is generally pretty good about self-regulating her food intake, but lately I've noticed her eating more than she really needs of certain favorite foods - mostly cheesy pasta (stuffed shells, tortellini, etc.), breads, and waffles. I know that it's more than she needs because if I tell her that she needs to eat something else (such as a vegetable or piece of fruit) before I heat up more of the food she's asking for, she'll announce that she's not hungry after all and wander off to play, and will not mention being hungry again until close to the next scheduled snack or meal time. And I worry about her because I'm overweight, I struggle with binge eating (especially on carb-heavy foods, just like the ones she's overeating), I have trouble self-regulating my eating, and I don't want her to grow up to struggle with her body and her relationship with food in the same ways that I do.

In sum, I worry that she's learning to overeat by watching me do it. And I'm worried that I'm primarily responsible for messing up her ability to self-regulate her intake of these types of foods.

A few months ago, I read a very enlightening book called Like Mother, Like Daughter: How Women Are Influenced By Their Mothers' Relationship with Food - And How to Break the Pattern. As I was reading it, I was really struck by the author's message on the dangers of yo-yo dieting - both to our own bodies and to our daughters' perceptions of their own and their mothers' bodies. I put the book down and resolved to eat when I was hungry and "trust my body" from that point forward. Sure enough, within a few days, I'd started binge eating again and become convinced that I wasn't strong enough or smart enough to interpret my bodies' signals. I gained several pounds and immediately went on a diet - a diet which went straight to hell after a few days because I got stressed and ate more than I was supposed to and then couldn't get back on track. And so the cycle continued.

I think there was some part of me that thought that as long as Nora didn't know exactly what I was doing to my body, and as long as I continued feeding her well and giving her the "right" messages about eating when hungry and stopping when full, that she would be okay. "Do as I say, not as I do," or something like that. I was careful to weigh myself when she was out of the room, not to enter calories into my tracker in front of her, etc. I don't know why I thought that would work. She's a bright kid! Even if I wasn't announcing my intentions, she could still observe on her own that I was eating only a little bit of food for several days in a row, then eating a whole lot of food for several days after that. She could certainly see which foods I was overeating. And she was apparently learning from all of that, even when I thought I was hiding my own body issues oh-so-well.

So basically, the authors of that book were right.

I really, really, really don't want to pass on my messed-up relationship with food to my children. Until last night, I actually thought that I could teach them regulation, self-control, balance, moderation, and a love of eating without figuring out any of those things for myself. That was naive, and Nora's actions last night have made abundantly clear the necessity of confronting my own demons if I'm ever going to be able to teach her and her brother how to eat well and respect their own bodies.

I've been trying to do that today. Breakfast was a bowl of cereal (plain Cheerios), a small glass of skim milk, and 2/3 of a banana (Nora ate the other 1/3). My morning snack was a handful of blueberries, a couple small wedges of melon, and a glass of water. Lunch was three soy chicken nuggets, a large serving of peas, and half of a baked potato seasoned with black pepper and sea salt. My first afternoon snack (I'm sure there will be another at some point because we eat a very early lunch over here) was a glass of chocolate milk and a package of peanut butter crackers. I've been trying to cut back on soda and add in more water - the rule I made for myself is that I have to have a glass of water between each can of diet coke. I'm on diet coke #3 right now - which for almost 2 PM, is actually really good for me (I'm generally on #4 or #5 by this point). I haven't tracked any calories and I don't intend to. I'm trying really hard to just listen to what my body is telling me, feed it when it's hungry, and make good nutritional choices without sacrificing flavor and the joy of eating.

It's hard! I'm coming off of a few days of overeating, so I'm actually still pretty hungry right now, even though I've eaten what I consider to be a reasonable amount of food so far today. The temptation to (a) ignore the hunger or (b) overfeed the hunger is really strong. I'm realizing that I'm afraid of being hungry - it's not a sensation that I generally respond to in an appropriate manner. I'm planning to go and eat an apple when I'm done writing this - that seems like a good middle ground between starving myself and downing three bowls of cereal, which are my more natural inclinations when encountering hunger at a time that I don't want to be eating. But it's really hard. It's a big, big struggle for me.

The other struggle is with giving myself permission to not be perfect at this. I've been yo-yo dieting for decades at this point. Expecting to immediately be able to turn off those ingrained habits and just start eating "normally" is unrealistic. But I'm a perfectionist and it's so easy to say, "well, crap, I suck at this... might as well just do what I want, then." Especially when what I want is to forget about all of this "treating my body with respect" business and eat a whole bag of Oreos.

But at this point, it's not just about me. It's about Nora, who's emulating me. It's about Isaac, who won't be far behind if I don't get a grip. I'm hoping that I can do for them what I've never been able to do for myself. And yes, I recognize that the self-worth issues tied up in that statement warrant their own soul-searching... but one thing at a time. Baby steps.

And Isaac is waking up from his nap now, so I guess I'd better go get him and eat that apple.

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