Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Word From The Wise

I lost my temper today.  It was bound to happen after only getting 4 hours of sleep.  The early birds woke complaining of hunger so I brought them downstairs before the sun even rose.  So after several hours of eating, playing, dancing, cluttering & repeat they are still going strong, not a nap in sight.  I am exhausted, cranky, and need more caffeine.  I was about to walk into the kitchen to refuel with a cherry coke, which is something I should not be drinking with a history of kidney stones mind you, when something caught my eye.  Lil R had a book, a book where it is not supposed to be.  She was not reading this book.  No.  She was eating. yet. another...  If you've read my previous posts you know this is an ongoing problem.

"NOT FOOD!" I boomed.  I swiped the book from her hands and out of her mouth in such a way that she began to cry.  "Good," I thought, "that'll teach her!"

Big brother R immediately stopped playing and went over to comfort his whimpering sister.  Meanwhile I stormed from the room like a pouty teenager to go cool off.  He then came directly to me to have a little talk.  I was still fuming, futilely wondering, "Why? Why does she eat stuff that's not food?"

"Mom," he began, patiently waiting for me to make eye contact.

At first I wanted to yell at him too.  Snap a "Get out of here! Leave me alone!" while I wallowed in my mean-mom guilt for losing my temper.  But when I looked at his sincere little face, I just couldn't.  My heart was tongue-tied.  The smoke was now clearing.

Making sure I was really listening, he calmly continued, "Mom, you can't yell at Baby Ro."

I sat there stunned and listened intently to this child of mine.  "You must use your inside voice", he wisely instructed.  "Yelling is for outside."

I started to stammer like a child who's hand was caught in the cookie jar.

Then he proceeded to hit me with the exact thing I tell him during one of our time-out talks after he has a screaming tantrum.  "If you get mad just scream in a pillow and then you won't yell anymore, and you won't be mad anymore, and it'll be all better!"  He said it so cheerfully, so judiciously, so sensibly.  He is very animated when he speaks, his head tilting and nodding, his shoulders, hands, and arms were poised in one of those "I don't know" poses.  He smiled at me, eyebrows raised, waiting for my response.

I sheepishly pouted.  Now what am I supposed to say to that?

Here I was, a grown woman, a mother of two, the disciplinarian, or so I thought, and this small, physically frail but strong in heart & spirit, three-year old boy, just taught me a lesson.

"Now promise me you'll never do it again," he recited again from memory with a gentle sternness.

I felt myself blush with embarrassment.  This was the most awkward situation I have ever found myself in as a parent.  I didn't know what to say.  Perhaps I should've gone with the old standard "I make the rules and what I say goes!" followed by a rude "Just mind your own business" for smarts.  Or maybe instructed him with one of the classic place-putting lines "I'm the parent and you don't speak to me that way!"

But he was right.  How could I argue with my very own rules?  How could I possibly deny something I've said to him?  Then, foolishly perhaps, I dove straight into the sea of awkward.  I opened my mouth and out came a "But..."  ...insert my big stinky mom foot here...

I stammered, "B...b... but... how am I supposed to stop her from putting things in her mouth and eating things she shouldn't?  She doesn't listen to me."  I shamefully admit that I actually whined.

Is this really happening?  Am I desperately seeking parenting advice from my own three year old?  Nice.  In that moment I imagined a slew of future Mother's Day cards with a big 'ol X over the word BEST or GREATEST.  "To the X mom"  Yep, that's me.  The stuttering, push-over X parent.

"Well," he started with a long sigh, sounding wiser than his years (heck, even wiser than my years) shaking his head, "I just don't know.  He then finished with a final matter-of-fact, "But don't yell at Baby Ro."

I immediately felt ashamed as hot tears stung my eyes.  I became the child and he was now the parent. 

I was a slobbering contrite mess scooping him up in my arms and apologizing in a whisper.

When I finally put him down and let go, he stood there with that bashful, smiling, head-cocked, tilted shoulders, hands-behind-his-back, stance that he does when he is so pleased with himself.

"Bubba, I am so very proud of you." I gushed, holding his pale little face in my hands, looking in his deep dark eyes, and planting a kiss on his fuzzy head.  "I love you! Thank you for teaching me."

He made that clicking sound, a sort of  tongue-click/lip-smack, as his chest swelled with pride.

"Your welcome!  I love you too!" he cheerfully chimed and sprung from the room to continue playing where he had abruptly left off.

I dried my eyes and felt humbly solemn as I walked into the next room.  I saw the two little angels playing and giggling.  I scooped up lilRo.  Big brother joined in the love fest and we all hugged and kissed each other.

I returned her to the floor and went across the room to the computer desk.  I was basking in the happy Hallmark-moment watching my beautiful, intelligent children playing merrily.  Lil R smiled at me, her cherub cheeks glowing, her evenly spaced baby teeth showing in a cheesy grin.  She then picked up the book and began to once again feast on it's spine.  Well, that lasted about as long as a commercial.
I let out a defeated sigh as I searched for the nearest pillow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

No More Small Potatoes

I feel like a teenager again; invincible and filled with nervous excitement, not knowing what the future holds.  My potential seems limitless.  I have the confidence that I can now accomplish anything.  My future is filled with unknowns but there is a sweet excitement of what lies ahead.  It is an overwhelming swell of positive energy that I can physically feel shining inside me, bursting at the seams.

I feel worlds apart from anyone who doesn't have this light, but I don't mind at all.  I see their strange looks of curiosity, or their blatant stares of confusion, or their flat-out annoyance and avoidance.  I see this but I am not swayed, not concerned, nothing can stop me.  All that matters is how I feel right now, in this very moment, and it is magnificent!

I had set goals before.  I once had dreams.  I have experienced success as well failure.   All small potatoes.  The bar was never set high enough for a real challenge.  The hurdles I had overcome in life were all placed there by me, detours I ultimately created, pressures I put on myself.  Sometime I won, and sometimes I lost.  In retrospect, I never really had anything to lose.  Not like this.

This is was something no one would ever wish for, something no one would ever want; the hardest thing I have ever been faced with in my life.  Something unplanned, unforeseen, unexpected.  This was an obstacle that was not chosen, but a goal that was necessary, unavoidable, and the epitome of importance.  Nothing had ever been this important.  The gravity of the situation paralyzed me at first.  It seemed there was nothing I could do.  Helpless, hopeless, afraid.  I was being hurdled at this insurmountable hurdle, kicking and screaming and terrified out of my mind.

I had no choice but to face this.  There was a voice inside me.  The one who always doubts, always criticizes, always seems reasonable.  The one who stops me from moving ahead, from trying new things, from believing in positive possibilities.   In that moment I chose to not listen to the voice.  I chose to only look toward the positive, the goal that once seemed unattainable.  I narrowed my focus.  The odds that were stacked against a positive outcome were now in my blind spot.  This goal became the center of my life.  My new motto was "whatever it takes."  My determination fed off of positive energy and the energy grew with my determination.  The cycle was endless. 

Astonishment came from people outside of the situation who only saw the negative.  They did not know or understand how I could feel this good, be this happy, seem so calm and relaxed.  The positive energy gave me strength.  And that voice, it has been stunned into silenced.  It is still present, but I imagine it's choking on this potato.  I believed, truly believed, in nothing but the positive.  Some people call this faith.  I had faith that the goal could be achieved.

This achievement was not even mine really, yet I feel so proud of the accomplishment.  This was a matter of life, a life I cherish, a life that has been renewed.  The life of my child.  And although it was not my life that has been saved, I feel the fire of life has been reignited within me.  My life has been irreversibly altered, for the good, by this challenge.  My life has been rejuvenated with hope.  My life is now filled with amazing potential. 

Aspirations and dreams seem attainable.  Setting my sights higher seems only natural.  No more small potatoes. There is endless opportunity, and the hurdles and challenges to get there are now dwarfed in comparison.  I'm taking chances.  Risk seems like such a silly little word.  I am no longer afraid to try new things for fear of failure.  It isn't really true failure.  There is no real risk.  There really is nothing to lose, nothing of importance anyway. 

There is no such thing as failure, only different outcomes, different paths.  The path I am on now is golden, lined with endless rows of giant potatoes of possibilities.  And oh, how I love potatoes!      


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I love to cook.  Not just cook, but create.  Combining ingredients in such a way that perhaps no one else has thought of or could duplicate, at least not exactly.  It's art.  Tasty art.  Just being in the kitchen.  My mind focuses only on the task at hand.  I become fixated on the food.  I am transported into a calm place in my mind.  My sense are heightened... smelling the vegetables and herbs as they release their scent when being chopped and diced... hearing the sizzle and pop from the pans... feeling the heat rise up engulfing my arms, then face and whole being, filling me with the energy of creating something beautiful, a feast for the eyes as much as for the mouth... nourishment for the soul as much as for the body...  It is a transcendental food-utopia. 

Escaping to this paradise is not something I have the luxury of doing most nights.  For about the past year I have been on high alert.  Not knowing whether we needed to run to the hospital for an emergency, the constant stress & depression of the whole disease, and the "terrorist toddlers" who spring into action right around the time I need to make dinner, is not conducive to cooking to say the least.  It has boiled down our dinners to either fast food, take-out, pizza, throw-it-in-the-oven or microwave, instant, prepackaged, I shouldn't be eating this, thrown on a plate, or something slapped together, meal in minutes. 

It wasn't until very recently I began to use my stove again, much to the delight of Big Daddy R's tummy.  Back in the day (i.e. before kids), I used to spend hours in the kitchen whipping up gourmet meals from cook books and studying DVR'd episodes of Food Network shows so I could duplicate the techniques.  I never really duplicated a meal.  I always changed something, made it my own, a little bit different, made it better.  I experimented, never measured, and tried all sorts of new foods.  Foods I once hated, never tried, or that once harbored fear (mushrooms, onions, greens, beans), I found to be delectable and have now become staples in my fridge and cupboards.  I discovered a love of guacamole, fresh avocados, making my own salsa and huge pots of chili.  I would dream about food and cooking.  I would not by any means call myself a chef, or foodie (I cringe at the word), but I have a passion for it, for sure. 

Tonight I made a delicious meal, if I do say so myself.  But it's not just me that enjoyed it, the little Rs ate it and Big Daddy R too.  I know I have a separate tab for "recipes of the week" and such, but I thought tonight's meal was special.  Not that any of the ingredients are particularly special or gourmet.  It's just that I was able to spend the entire time in the kitchen, uninterrupted, cooking a complete meal, and then serving it to my family who happily ate it, together as a family.  This is rare.  Maybe not the eating part, but the cooking part indeed.  And if you have toddlers who love to graze, you know how difficult it can be to eat together.  I was even able to photo-documented the whole thing.  So here goes!

Pan Seared Kielbasa
Sauteed Pierogi & Onions
Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Garlic, & Onions in a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

It sounds fancy, but it's not.  It's really quite simple too.  As a side note, I usually add a can of cannellini beans to the chard & tomato mixture (just before the tomatoes), but my can opener broke last week and I have yet to replace it.  Still tasty, just less protein.

The pictures are pretty self explanatory...
Wash & Dry the Swiss Chard, Rough Chop
Dice Garlic & Slice Onion
Add Olive Oil to Pan and Heat
Saute Onions & Garlic & Season w/ s&p.  

Move Some of the Onions & Garlic with Some Oil to Another Pan

Wash & De-stem Tomatoes, Leave Whole
Add Tomatoes & Continue Cooking
Add Swiss Chard to Pan When Tomatoes Start to Burst
Add Pre-Boiled Pierogi to the Other Pan w/ Onions, Garlic, & Oil
Cook until Golden Brown on Each Side, Remove Pierogi, Return Pan to Heat

Add Balsamic Vinegar & Reduce to a Thick Glaze
Add Kielbasa to Pan & Sear on All Sides
Large Portion for the Super Hungry
Plate & Enjoy